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Ford, Hyundai men coming to ‘spy’ in Kenya just in case Safari WRC status in offing

2019 WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP TEAMS

Ford M-Sport:

Teemu SUNINEN – (FIN)

Pontus TEDEMAND – (SWE)

Elfyn EVANS – (GBR)

Gus GREENSMITH – (GBR)

Toyota:

Kris MEEKE – (GBR)

Jari-Matti LATVALA – (FIN)

Ott TANAK – (EST)

Hyundai:

Dani SORDO – (ESP)

Thierry NEUVILLE – (BEL)

Sebastian LOEB – (FRA)

Andreas MIKKELSEN – (NOR)

Citroen:

Sebastien OGIER – (FRA)

Esapeka LAPPI – (FIN)

Mads OSTBERG – (SWE)

Yoann BONATO – (FRA)

FORD and Hyundai rallying teams will be sending observers and experts to watch the Safari Rally in Kenya between July 5 and 7.

These two World Rally Championship (WRC) teams are leaving nothing to chance and their reconnaissance is based on the high possibility of the Safari — a this year’s African Rally Championship (ARC) round being run as WRC Candidate Event — returning to the top-flight calendar in 2020.

Top: The Hyundai of Belgian Thierry Neuville during the recent World Rally Championship Rally Italia Sardegna, June 13-16. Above: The Ford RS 1600 of Finland’s Hannu Mikkola, the first foreign driver, in 1972, to win the East African Safari Rally

Top: The Hyundai of Belgian Thierry Neuville during the recent World Rally Championship Rally Italia Sardegna, June 13-16. Above: The Ford RS 1600 of Finland’s Hannu Mikkola, the first foreign driver, in 1972, to win the East African Safari Rally

Hyundai are sending to Kenya, Pablo Marcos who arrives on Wednesday and the 2017 WRC champions Ford M-Sport will be flying in Krzysztof Stolarczyk. These two will be assessing the competition, the route and conditions in Kenya to give their teams a head-start in preparation should the Safari become a WRC event next year.

Ford, now racing under M-Sport Team won the 2017 WRC manufacturers’ title through Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia. However, in 2018 Ogier and Ingrassia rode for and took Toyota to the crown.

Latest from Ford … British man Elfyn Evans in the 2019 WRC Rally of Argentina. Below: Another Briton, Colin McRae was a winner for Ford in 2002 Safari Rally, the Kenyan event’s last in World Rally Championship status

Latest from Ford … British man Elfyn Evans in the 2019 WRC Rally of Argentina. Below: Another Briton, Colin McRae was a winner for Ford in 2002 Safari Rally, the Kenyan event’s last in World Rally Championship status

If they attend a WRC Safari next year, Ford will actually be returning as defending WRC Safari Rally Champions; picking up from where they left 17 years ago when the late Colin McRae and Nicky Grist drove their Ford Focus to victory in 2002, Safari’s last year in the WRC.

Ford is also historic in the Safari. It is their works team entry of Finland’s Hannu Mikkola that became the first overseas winner of the Safari in 1972. Mikkola drove a Ford RS 1600 with Swede Gunnar Palm.

Ford had, otherwise been a very successful team previously in the Safari, having first won in 1955 (Ford Zephyr- Vic Preston Snr), 1958 (Ford Zephyr II – Arne Kopperund), 1964 (Ford Cortina GT – Peter Hughes) and 1969 (Ford Taunus 20M RS – Robin Hillyar).

Former world champion Sebastien Loeb’s best performance in the 2019 WRC has been the opening Monte Carlo Rally, fourth in Hyundai i20. Hyundai have great plans to race in Kenya in 2020

Former world champion Sebastien Loeb’s best performance in the 2019 WRC has been the opening Monte Carlo Rally, fourth in Hyundai i20. Hyundai have big plans to race in Kenya in 2020

After Mikkola’s Ford break-through for overseas drivers Swede, Bjorn Waldegard, produced a remarkable drive with Han Thorselius to win in 1977 in a Ford Escort RS 1800.

The British manufacturer stayed out for a decade before making a return in 1987 through Stig Blomqvist, also of Sweden, and Kenya’s Johnny Hillier in Ford Bosworth’s. But they were unsuccessful.

Part of the opening competitive section in this year's Safari Rally, a WRC Candidate Event on July 5-7; the Gatamaiyu Forest stage noth of Gatundu South

Part of the opening competitive section in this year’s Safari Rally, a WRC Candidate Event on July 5-7; the Gatamaiyu Forest stage noth of Gatundu South. Photo/ANWAR SIDI

It was in 1998 that Ford returned with three-times Safari champion Juha Kankkunen and late replacement Ari Vatanen finished second and third respectively. McRae won in 1999 and 2001.

Hyundai were late entrants in the Safari, fielding a fully-fledged team in 2002 when Kankkunen finished 8th in a Hyundai Accent. However, it was Phineas Kimathi, racing as a privateer who gave the South Korean manufacturer their first ever points in the WRC after winning the F2 category in a Coupe and finishing 18th overall.

-Additional reporting by WRC Safari Rally Project

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