World rally teams were unanimous that Safari Rally will not be a walk in the park even as they prepare to embark on the first Super Special Stage (SSS) this afternoon (Thursday) at Moon International Sports Centre (MISC) Kasarani.
Owing to the tough volcanic ash soil experience at the 5.1km Loldia Shakedown on the outskirts of Naivasha town, Ogier candidly admitted that Safari is not going to be easy and one will need to be clever.
“We have to try to be more clever this weekend. It’s easier to say that than to do it. But we will do our best.”
Hyundai Motorsport WRT driver Thierry Neuville said their first encounter on Africa terrain will be energy-sapping and challenging.
Thierry, who is lying second on the WRC log behind Ogier, told WRC TV: “It’s going to be rough and tough and a huge challenge for us. I am looking forward to it though. We wanted some adventure and now we’ve got it. We have to face it now.”
Toyota Gazoo racing principal Jari-Matti Latvala also predicted a tough drive ahead after yesterday’s Shakedown.
He says he would like to have seen the cars looking different on what is an iconic event. “We didn’t make the changes because of the extra cost,” the now Toyota team principal said.
“In my opinion, we should have kept the ‘roo bars’ because the cars are likely to encounter animals in the stages. I don’t think this costs much.”
Meanwhile, M-Sport Ford Fiesta Rally2 star Martin Prokop will be a lone ranger in the WRC2 category.
Historically, Prokop has enjoyed competing on tricky terrain. Alongside sporadic FIA World Rally Championship outings, the 38-year-old has contested the Dakar Rally every year since 2016.
He indeed fulfilled a childhood dream after driving in the Great Rift Valley roads on Wednesday.
With key title protagonists including Andreas Mikkelsen, Marco Bulacia and Mads Ostberg absent, the Czech pilot also has the chance to score big points and climb the championship standings.
“Since I was a small child, I watched this epic rally and I always wanted to be part of it. This year, my dream comes true, and I am very thankful for that,” beamed Prokop.
“The stages look very hard in some places. Sometimes it would be better to use the cross-country car! I am looking forward to tackling these stages in this unique landscape,“ he added.
The WRC3 entry is dominated by a raft of Kenyan challengers. Each and every one of them will be eager for glory on home roads. Onkar Rai tops the list in a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5, followed by Carl Tundo’s similar machine.
Tundo claimed victory by over 12min at the Equator Rally in April, which included some identical stages to those which feature on this week’s itinerary.
He also shares a Safari Rally record with Shekhar Mehta, having won the event five times – albeit not as part of the WRC.