WRC Safari Rally: Everything you need to know
The World Rally Championship heads to Africa as Safari Rally Kenya hosts Round 6 of the 2022 season this weekend. Here's everything you need to know.
The Safari Rally poses one of the toughest challenges in motorsport as crews tackle the gruelling high-speed and unforgiving gravel roads sprawled across Kenya’s iconic wildlife-filled savannah.
The event has prided itself as being one of the WRC’s jewel in the crown events given its difficulty to win and its unique stages. The Safari Rally was a mainstay on the WRC calendar from 1973-2002 before returning last year after a 19-year hiatus.
Toyota’s Kalle Rovanpera arrives in Kenya equipped with a 55 point lead over Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville, who came perilously close to winning last year’s Safari Rally, before a rear suspension issue struck on the final day.
Rovanpera has claimed wins in Sweden, Croatia and Portugal, the last two of which from running first on the road. The Finn struggled opening the roads in Sardinia last time out, finishing fifth, but still managed to extend his championship lead over Neuville.
Ott Tanak claimed Hyundai’s first win of the new Rally1 hybrid era in Sardinia, ending the 2019 world champion’s victory drought that stretched back to Arctic Rally Finland in February 2021.
Tanak has moved to third in the championship standings ahead of M-Sport’s Craig Breen, who finished second in Sardinia to net his first podium since January’s Monte Carlo Season opener.
Last year’s championship runner-up Elfyn Evans sits sixth overall after salvaging only three points from an incident-filled Sardinia.
Multiple world champions Sebastien Ogier and Sebastien Loeb will return to the WRC for their third events of partial 2022 campaigns.
Eight-time world champion Ogier, who beat team-mate Takomoto Katsuta to victory in Kenya last year, takes over the third Toyota GR Yaris. Nine-time champion Loeb rejoins M-Sport for what will be his second Safari Rally, 20 years after his first, driving for Citroen in 2002.
Adrien Fourmaux, Renaud Jamoul, M-Sport Ford WRT Ford Fiesta WRC
Photo by: M-Sport
What is the Safari Rally?
The Safari Rally was first held in 1953, as the East African Coronation Safari in Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika as a celebration of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
In 1960 it was renamed the East African Safari Rally and kept that name until 1974, when it became the Kenya Safari Rally.
Held on roads still open to the public, it became notorious as the toughest round of the WRC. Arduous conditions and constantly changing weather and more than 5000 competitive kilometres made simply finishing an achievement.
The event adopted a special stage format in 1996 and from then until 2002, it featured over 1000km of timed tests. The rally left the WRC in 2002 and returned in 2021 with a revised shorter format that remains one of the toughest challenges on the calendar.
Unlike other rounds on the calendar, crews are forbidden to test in the local area to prepare for the event.
Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota Yaris WRC
Photo by: Toyota Racing
Safari Rally winners
The late Kenyan rally ace Shekhar Mehta and fellow compatriot Carl Tundo are the event’s most successful drivers, having scored five wins apiece.
Mehta scored his first in the Safari Rally’s first event on the WRC calendar in 1973 before taking four more wins from 1979-1982 while countryman Tundo's victories have come from editions held outside of the WRC schedule in 2004, 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2018.
During its run as a WRC event from 1973-2002, the 1979 world champion Bjorn Waldegard and four-time world title winner Juha Kankkunen scored four wins.
The Safari Rally was the scene of Colin McRae’s final WRC win in 2002. It was the 1995 world champion’s third Safari Rally triumph, alongside wins for Subaru in 1997 and Ford in 1999 and 2002.
World champions Miki Biasion, Tommi Makinen and Richard Burns have all won the rally twice.
Richard Burns, Subaru Impreza
Photo by: Motorsport Images
Safari Rally itinerary
This year’s edition will be contested over 19 stages, comprising 363.44km across four days.
This year almost a third of the route has been changed following the 2021 edition. Friday’s Geothermal and Sunday’s Narasha tests are brand new. The former climbs over craggy rock lined hills while Narasha rises from the arid floor of the Rift Valley across historic Maasai grazing lands.
Wednesday 22 June
Thursday 23 June (1 stage - 4.84km)
Stage 1 Super Special Kasarani - begins 1208 BST - 1408 local
Friday 24 June (6 stages - 129.04km)
Stage 2 - Stage 7 - begins 0600 BST - 0800 local
Saturday 25 June (6 stages - 150.88km)
Stage 8 - Stage 13 - begins 0606 BST - 0806 local
Sunday 26 June (6 stages - 82.70km)
Stage 14 - Stage 19 - Final stage begins 1218 BST - 1418 local
Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota Yaris WRC
Photo by: Toyota Racing
Safari Rally Entry List (Rally1) - Road order
The Safari Rally will feature 33 entries headlined by 12 Rally1 cars.
#69 Kalle Rovanpera/Jonne Halttunen - Toyota Gazoo Racing - GR Yaris Rally1
#11 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe - Hyundai Motorsport - i20 N Rally1
#8 Ott Tanak/Martin Jarveoja - Hyundai Motorsport - i20 N Rally1
#42 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle - M-Sport Ford World Rally Team - Puma Rally1
#18 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston - Toyota Gazoo Racing - GR Yaris Rally1
#33 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin - Toyota Gazoo Racing - GR Yaris Rally1
#19 Sebastien Loeb/Isabelle Galmiche - M-Sport Ford World Rally Team - Puma Rally1
#44 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson - M-Sport Ford World Rally Team - Puma Rally1
#1 Sebastien Ogier/ Benjamin Veillas - Toyota Gazoo Racing - GR Yaris Rally1
#2 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson - Hyundai Motorsport - i20 N Rally1
#16 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria - M-Sport Ford World Rally Team - Puma Rally1
#9 Jourdan Serderidis/Frederic Miclotte - M-Sport Ford World Rally Team - Puma Rally1
The field also includes a contingent of 15 local drivers including Kenyan and WRC Junior regular McRae Kimathi.
Dani Sordo, Borja Rozada, Hyundai Motorsport Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photo by: Romain Thuillier / Hyundai Motorsport
What’s new for WRC in 2022?
This year sees the introduction of new Rally1 regulations designed to move the WRC into a much more sustainable future and to attract new manufacturers. The rules have resulted in Hyundai, Toyota and M-Sport Ford designing and building all-new cars around a new safer, steel spaceframe chassis.
The biggest change to the cars is the introduction of a mandatory 100kW hybrid unit coupled to the 1.6-litre turbocharged internal combustion engine, the only key component carried over from the previous generation of cars. In tandem, this will allow the powertrain to develop 500bhp to be used in short bursts across every stage.
Cars will be up 70kg heavier than their predecessors, this is mainly due to the addition of the hybrid system. In total, Rally1 machines will weigh in at approximately 1260kg.
The new regulations have effectively abolished extra aerodynamic devices such as wings and flicks being added to the bodywork outside of the front splitter and rear wing. The overall downforce created and its effect on the car has been reduced by approximately 15% compared to the previous generation of vehicle.
Trick centre differentials used to fine tune handling are now banned in favour of a simpler front and rear mechanical limited-slip differentials offering a fixed 50:50 toque split between the front and rear wheels. Suspension travel has been reduced to 270mm.
Gus Greensmith, Stuart Loudon, M-Sport Ford WRT Ford Fiesta WRC
Photo by: M-Sport
How does the Rally1 hybrid system work?
Drivers will have the use hybrid power during every stage, with power boosts activated by the throttle pedal, while further boosts will be unlocked through energy regeneration under braking during stages.
Pilots will be required to regenerate 30 kilojoules of energy before another boost is granted that will be used the next time they touch the throttle pedal.
The extra 130 horsepower is delivered through the use of three bespoke homologated engine maps selected by teams, depending on the type of stage and conditions.
Determined by the FIA and event organisers, drivers will be required to navigate parts of road sections and around event service parks in full electric mode.
In full electric mode the car has a range of 20km, while its 3.9kWh battery, operating up to 750 volts, can be plugged in and recharged in the service park within 30 minutes. The hybrid unit can withstand an impact of 70G.
The cars are powered by a 100% sustainable fuel.
Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja, Hyundai Motorsport Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photo by: Fabien Dufour / Hyundai Motorsport
How can I follow the Safari Rally?
Autosport will be on the ground in Kenya providing reports, interviews and reaction.
Motorsport.tv will also have regular highlights both during and after each WRC round in 2022.
WRC Plus All Live will provide live coverage from every stage.
BT Sport will live action and provide daily highlights shows from every event this season.
Free to air television UK
ITV4 will broadcast highlights on Wednesday 29 June.
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