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Kenyans at Wales Rally to pick up tips for next year’s Safari

  • Wales Rally GB – third last stop of the 2019 WRC calendar and still plenty to fight for. Fast roads, heavy rain and a lot of action in the Wales Forest
  • A Kenyan WRC Safari Rally Project working party  study tour in Wales

 

KENYA’S Safari Rally people were there watching; as Kris Meeke and Toyota won Thursday night’s opening speed test at Wales Rally GB as heavy rain made conditions treacherous on the asphalt and gravel roads at Oulton Park motor racing circuit.

The Safari Rally is back as part of the World Rally Championship (WRC) and its organisers are picking up every opportunity to attain top operations standards well ahead of Safari’s 2020 date of July 16-19.

At the WRC Safari Rally Project headquarters in Nairobi on Monday before leaving for a study tour during the Wales Rally of Great Britain, from left: Nazir Yakub (Assistant Clerk of Course), Anwar Sidi (Media Safety and Route Liaison) and Gurvir Babra (Clerk of Course)

Above: At the WRC Safari Rally Project headquarters in Nairobi on Monday before leaving for a study tour during the Wales Rally of Great Britain, from left: Nazir Yakub (Assistant Clerk of Course), Anwar Sidi (Media Safety and Route Liaison) and Gurvir Babra (Clerk of Course). Top: The Toyota of Kris Meeke on the opening day of the Wales Rally of GB.

The Safari Rally clerk of course, Gurvir Babra, leads a number of other WRC Safari Rally Project technical experts for a study tour in Britain during the ongoing Wales Rally. They also include; Nazir Yakub (Assistant Clerk of Course), Anwar Sidi (Media Safety and Route Liaison), Anthony Gatei (Service Park Manager) and Wambui Kiiru (Secretary to the Stewards). Phineas Kimathi, Chief Executive Officer WRC Safari Rally Project who is also in the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) Rallies Commission is also in Wales.

Last week, the FIA announced the return of the Safari Rally, alongside the rallies of Japan and New Zealand, to the WRC calendar saying: “It means the WRC returns to Africa, the world’s second largest continent by size, for the first time since 2002.”

Above, the Ford of Pontus Johan Tidemand, below the Toyota of Ott Tanak and, bottom, the Citroen of Esapekka Lappi during the opening day’s action at the Wales Rally GB. Photos/ANWAR SIDI

Above, the Ford of Pontus Johan Tidemand; below,  the Toyota of Ott Tanak; and, bottom, the Citroen of Esapekka Lappi during the opening day’s action at the Wales Rally GB. Photos/ANWAR SIDI in Wales

The announcement described the Safari as “notorious for being the WRC’s toughest round as open-road gravel tracks, unpredictable weather and a route three times longer than other rallies created hazards unmatched elsewhere.”

The WRC Safari Rally Project CEO, before leaving the Wales Rally said in Nairobi on Wednesday: “We are straight in work for our calendar date next year, energized, confident and focused because now that our (WRC) status is clear. We want to do a good job.”

The starting scenario at the Wales Rally GB, the publications and the Skoda team parking. Photos/ANWAR SIDI in Wales

The starting scenario at the Wales Rally GB, the publications and the Skoda team parking. Photos/ANWAR SIDI in Wales

At the start of the Wales GB Rally on Thursday, the Ulsterman Meek, who was fastest in the morning’s shakedown, finished the 3.58km special stage with a 2.1sec advantage in his Toyota Yaris over Belgium’s Thierry Neuville, at the wheel of a Hyundai i20.

The Safari Rally is back in the World Rally Championship next year and meanwhile it is all nostalgia about when the event held that status and reputation of ‘the toughest of ‘em all’. Here, in 1984, Rauno Aaltonen under the attention of masses of spectators

The Safari Rally is back in the World Rally Championship next year and meanwhile it is all nostalgia about when the event held that status and reputation of ‘the toughest of ‘em all’. Here, in 1984, Rauno Aaltonen in an Opel Ascona under the attention of masses of spectators

“That was tricky. It was dark, slippery and tricky and in those conditions on a race circuit it was like ice. There are no points for today, so let’s try to have a good weekend,” said Meeke.

After the late afternoon start ceremony in Liverpool, the curtain-raiser for this 12th round of the FIA World Rally Championship almost provided a fairytale story for Petter Solberg.

The 2003 world champion and four-time GB winner, competing in his last rally before retirement, topped the leaderboard for much of the evening in his support category Volkswagen Polo R5 before being overhauled by Meeke and Neuville.

The 44-year-old Norwegian finished 3.3sec off the lead in third, 0.5sec clear of reigning world champion Sébastien Ogier’s Citroën C3. Andreas Mikkelsen, driving an i20, and Esapekka Lappi, in another C3, completed the top six.

It was a nightmare start for championship leader Ott Tänak who was down in 12th after yielding almost 9sec to team-mate Meeke.

“The engine stopped. I had no lights, they were pointing to the top of the trees and I completely missed the corner,” explained the Estonian.

The full  WRC 2020 calendar is:

Round Rally Date
1. Monte-Carlo 23 – 26 January
2. Sweden 13 – 16 February
3. Mexico 12 – 15 March
4. Chile 16 – 19 April
5. Argentina 30 April – 3 May
6. Portugal 21 – 24 May
7. Italy 4 – 7 June
8. Kenya 16 – 19 July
9. Finland  6 – 9 August
10. New Zealand  3 – 6 September
11. Turkey 24 – 27 September
12. Germany 15 – 18 October
13. Great Britain 29 October – 1 November
14. Japan 19 – 22 November

-Majority of reporting by wrc.com

-Additional reporting by wrc.com

 

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