Toyota GAZOO Racing World Rally Team is gearing up for the highly anticipated Safari Rally Kenya, a legendary event known for its grueling challenges. Having triumphed in the last two editions, the team aims to maintain its strong record on the demanding African rally, which returns to the FIA World Rally Championship calendar from 22-25 June.
“The Safari Rally has been a really exciting event for us in the last two years, and of course, we hope we can achieve another good result this time around,” said Jari-Matti Latvala, Team Principal of Toyota GAZOO Racing World Rally Team. “It’s the longest and toughest rally in the championship and very different to the others.”
The team’s lineup for the Safari Rally Kenya includes all four drivers who contributed to last year’s historic 1-2-3-4 finish. Reigning world champion Kalle Rovanperä, who currently leads the standings by 25 points, secured victory in 2022, followed closely by Elfyn Evans. They will be joined by Sébastien Ogier, the 2021 winner, forming a formidable manufacturer lineup for the team. Additionally, Takamoto Katsuta will drive an additional GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID with the support of the TGR WRC Challenge Program.
Reflecting on his previous experiences in Kenya, Rovanperä expressed his excitement for the event: “Already in 2021, we were going quite well until we got stuck in the sand. Then, last year, it was of course very special to win with a perfect result for the team. It’s a rally that can depend a lot on the weather, because the conditions can change completely from one year to another.”
Evans emphasized the unpredictable nature of the rally: “It’s always difficult to know what we can expect on the Safari Rally, which is what makes it such a challenge for the teams and the crews. We’ve already experienced a lot of different conditions there over the past couple of years, so we have been looking back through those events to prepare as best as we can.”
Ogier, who looks forward to returning to Kenya, acknowledged the tough and unique nature of the rally: “I have really enjoyed the experience of going to Kenya these past two years and this is the main reason why I wanted to return again. It’s something very different from what we are used to, and the country and its people are amazing.
“The rally is very tough and we know that luck can be a big factor: in 2021 it was possible for me to come back from more than two minutes behind to win, as almost everybody had an issue at some point. Every rally I start, I try to win, and we will give it everything like always. I hope we got all our bad luck out of the way in Sardinia and that fortune will be on our side this time.”
The Safari Rally Kenya poses diverse challenges, featuring rough and rocky gravel stages alongside sections of soft sand. Changing weather conditions can drastically transform the surfaces, making adaptability and endurance crucial for success.
The rally will kick off from Nairobi, with the competitive action commencing at the Kasarani super special stage. The route will take the teams to Lake Naivasha, Lake Elmenteita, and other challenging locations. In total, the drivers will tackle 355.92 competitive kilometers across the weekend.
In addition to the rally, Toyota will showcase a concept car, the Hilux MHEV, driven by rally legend Juha Kankkunen. The car aims to demonstrate options for achieving carbon neutrality in markets with underdeveloped infrastructure.