BY FRANK SERUGO, NAIVASHA.
The long wait is finally over, as the World Rally Championship (WRC) Safari Rally reeves off this afternoon (Wednesday) with a shakedown stage run as by start list.
Most interesting beat of this edition, is that it has attracted the world’s top ‘de creme’ plus a breed of talented young drivers.
Amongst them,is the 19-year old Oliver Solberg who had a last minute inclusion on the entry list courtesy of his Hyundai i20 team principal, Andrea Adamo.
Contending WRC teams ,Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe,Hyundai i20 and M-sport, saved their best for the last for their maiden Safari rally, fielding strong fallbacks in youngsters.
Toyota have lined 20-year old Finn Kalle Rovanpera, who has had a promising championship start, away from his seniors Sebastein Ogier and Elfyn Evans current leading wrc championship with a1-2.
Hyundai making a late substitution of Solberg replacing Pierre-Louis Loubet as fourth mainstream crew.
As M-sport Ford backing on 24-year Briton Gus Greensmith,whose best position this year was 5th overall in Portugal,away from experienced and defending WRC champion Ott Tanak,who has so far won one round in Artic rally of Finland,Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo respectively.
Hosts Kenya,are pressing their hopes in 2019 WRC Safari candidate winner, Boldy Chager in Mitsubishi EvoX, experienced 2021 Equator rally winner Carl ‘Flash’ Tundo in a VW Polo R5, Amaanraj Rai Singh in a Skoda Fabia R5,and Rai brothers Onkar Rai and Tajeev in same make of car VW polo R5.
On trail test of their ability at WRC round are the three drivers on the FIA young star programme.
These are Hamza Anwar 22-years old and McRae Kimathi(26) who started their careers in 2017 and 2015, sons to Safari rally legends, Asad Anwar and wrc Safari CEO, Phineas Kimathi who featured in the 1990s Safari.
Another youngester, is Jeremy Wahome(22) started racing 2016-2017,has competed in various open-wheel formulae including the British Formulae championship and F3 Asian championship, they are all outing in the Safaricom and Kenyan Airways sponsored Ford Feistas R3s.
The WRC returns to Africa in an old classic way with a modern format new experience to the current runners of the Wrc drivers.
Hyundai’s Neuville intimated in one of the Wrc plus safari rally vidoes that he is too expectact to face off the landscape and wild life.
Same, Toyota’s Evans lying second on 2021 Wrc championship with 95 points, 11 points adrift current leader, seven-time world champion Seb Ogier were only worried about right notes, line picking and tyre choice the team is to use,but anticipated an adventurous rally.
M-sport’s Gus Greensmith anticipates a flat-out event with awide range of wild life.
The general characteristics of the safaria remain with challenging closed dirt roads, stunning picturesque scenery and exotic wild life.
Competitors should expect rocky and rutted tracks/stages after a rub of front running crews, as the weather is anticipated to be wetty a little.
YOUNGEST AND OLDEST CREW:
Teenage star Oliver Solberg navigated by Aaron Johnstone ,makes his gravel debut in a world rally car at the Safari.
The 19-year-old was a star performer at his outing in Finland,when he drover a top- level Hyubda i20 to seventh overall position finish.
It’s 22 years when Oliver’s father Petter Solberg,made his world rally car Gravel debut at the Safari as a late replacement for the injured Thomas Radstrom in Ford Focus in 1999, finished fifth overall in an event won by teammate, late Colin McRea.
Ninety-one- year Sobieslaw Zasada co-driven by Tomasz Boryslawski, participates in Safari after 24 years of his last competition rally start.
The Pole will drive Ford Feista rally3 run by M-Sport Poland,he last appeared at Safari in 1997 and finished 12th alongside his wide, Ewa in a Mitsubishi lancer.
“He isnot going in the Safari just to drive through, ” promised M-sport Poland managing director, Maciej Woda.
Zasanda finished second in the 1972 Safari driving a Porche 911s in the Intercontinental manufacturer event that was won by Hannu Mikkola, a year before turning into a Wrc round that was won by late Shekhar Mehta in Datsun 240Z.
Sunday’s 10.56km Hell’s Gate Power stage will perhaps be the most scenic backdrop of any of the powers takes on the world championship.
Hell’s Gate is going to sign off the Yafari rally on high note.
With the finish line of the final stage alongside the picturesque Ficher’s Tower.
A great opportunity for spectators to get close to the action of the final day and power stage.