The legendary Safari Rally is confirmed as the third round of the IRC this year, providing an epic challenge to push drivers and cars to the maximum through the demanding gravel stages. IRC manufacturer points will be allocated on this round, but only drivers holding African competition licences will be awarded IRC driver points.
Based in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, the rally will take place from April 3-5, and will also host the second round of the FIA African Rally Championship. It last appeared on the IRC in 2007, when it formed the opening round of the series. In 2008 it obtained Supporter Event status. This season will herald the 57th running of the rally.
The rally will begin with a spectator stage in Nairobi on Friday April 3. For the first leg, crews will then head out to Nakuru and the Lake Elementaita region. The second leg will be based close to Nairobi around the small town of Athi River. The finish ceremony is due to take place on Sunday April 5.
The roads consist of gravel stages, with some watersplashes, which form a well-known highlight of the African classic. The weather is expected to be hot and dry, but as in all equatorial climates, sudden storms can strike that turn the stages into a mudbath.
The Safari Rally will see the participation of plenty of local experts this year, which means that a number of drivers will start the event with plenty of experience and a good chance of winning. The rally gets underway on Friday night, with a spectator superspecial stage near Nairobi, and finishes on Sunday. For further details and a full entry list, please visit the event’s official website: www.motorsportkenya.com.
The entry list on this year’s Safari Rally contains a high number of local Mitsubishis, with Kenyan Lee Rose leading the local entries in his Lancer Evo IX. Rose was well-placed on the most recent IRC event in Africa, the 2007 Safari Rally, until he was forced into retirement with a mechanical problem. Rose will be hoping for better luck this year as he leads the competitors off the start ramp. Other top drivers who originally took part in the 2007 Safari include Carl Tundo (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX) and Asad Anwar (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII), who finished on the podium when the event was run in 2007 as part of the IRC.
South African sisters Megan and Lola Verlaque will drive a Super 2000 car on the Safari Rally this year: a Volkswagen Polo S2000, which is a former winner of the South African Rally Championship and has therefore proved itself to be well-suited to Africa’s demanding terrain.
Amongst the other foreign drivers is British businessman John Lloyd, who drives a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII and has made a speciality out of African endurance events. Lloyd’s main job is as a stockbroker in London, but he would love to add a strong result on the Safari Rally to his list of achievements.
There is also a solid entry on the IRC 2WD Cup on the Safari Rally, with no fewer than six Volkswagen Golf GTIs eligible to score manufacturer points. This presents a golden opportunity for the German manufacturer to secure points in the IRC 2WD Cup just as Mitsubishi is well-placed for a comprehensive score in the main IRC series.
"The Safari Rally has always been a real classic on the world rally calendar and I am sure that this year’s challenge will once again provide competitors with an epic and memorable event. For years the Safari was known as the world’s toughest rally and it’s easy to see why. As well as some fantastic action, the route takes in some absolutely beautiful scenery, through the Great Rift Valley, so it’s common to see zebra and other wild animals along the route. The Safari is more than just a rally: it is a real experience."
Jean-Pierre Nicolas, IRC Motorsport Development Manager and 1978 Safari Rally winner
Highlights of the Safari Rally will be broadcast on Eurosport after the event. All times are Central European Time (CET):
Tuesday 21 April
00:30-01:00 Highlights of IRC Safari Rally (Eurosport)
Thursday 23 April
13:00-13:30 Highlights of IRC Safari Rally (Eurosport 2)
18:30-19:00 Highlights of IRC Safari Rally (Eurosport 2)
The Safari Rally will once more provide some stunning action through the scenic heart of Africa