Safari Rally Kenya: Day 1
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing starts Safari adventure with stage win
The FIA World Rally Championship’s return to Safari Rally Kenya is underway with a good start for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team: Sébastien Ogier won the short opening super special stage ahead of his team-mates Kalle Rovanperä and Elfyn Evans to head the field going into the rest of the event.
On Wednesday, the drivers had their first opportunity to sample the conditions at speed behind the wheel of the Toyota Yaris WRC in the shakedown. Ogier set the fastest time after four passes of the 5.4 kilometre shakedown stage, one tenth of a second ahead of Evans, but most important was the chance to make final adjustments to the car setup ahead of the rally – with pre-event testing outside of Europe not permitted by the regulations.
After a start ceremony held in the capital city Nairobi on Thursday lunchtime, the crews took on the opening competitive stage in nearby Kasarani in front of enthusiastic crowds. Ogier’s fastest time was 0.3 seconds ahead of Rovanperä and 0.7s ahead of Evans as Toyota occupied the top three places, although much tougher tests will await the entire field over the coming three days of rallying.
Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)
“The super special in Nairobi was a nice way to start the rally: It was quite fast and as drivers we can enjoy that kind of stage. It’s a good start for us but it’s tomorrow when we will really start to know where we are. Having seen the stages myself during the recce, I can say that the principle will be just like the Safari Rally of old but with shorter stages and on closed roads. You still have sections that you have to take with respect like before: Loose rocks, bedrock, holes, dips. We’ve tried to add as much protection to the car as we can, with a bigger sump guard than ever before and the mesh on the front grille. But still, in some places it will be more down to the driver and how they will approach these very rough sections.”
Sébastien Ogier (Driver car 1)
“It’s been a good day with a wonderful atmosphere and a lot of people coming out to cheer for us. We won the first stage so it was a good one for us. It was difficult too because there was a lot of dust. It’s a clean start but for sure the real stuff starts tomorrow. Shakedown yesterday was good for us and quite representative I think with some rough sections as well. The car feels good but there are a lot of question marks over what conditions we will face and how rough it’s going to be. We will have to use the head as much as we can.”
Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
“It’s nice to be here in Kenya with an all-new challenge. The super special was quite nice actually, one of the more enjoyable ones to drive, quite wide and open. Maybe my run wasn’t perfect but all in all it was OK. Of course, the rest of the rally will be very different and it will be very difficult to judge where you can go quickly and where you need to look after the car. In shakedown we could change some things inbetween the runs and we seemed to find some small improvements. We know it’s going to be a difficult weekend but we’ll try our best to get the balance right.”
Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)
“This was quite a nice super special stage, quite enjoyable to drive and not too tricky. In shakedown yesterday we had some work to do with the balance of the car but with the remote service we could try some things between the runs and the feeling got better. It’s going to be a really tough weekend. It’s a bit of an endurance event where you have to take care of the car, but it’s also quite a short event so you have to push a lot. We’ll know a bit more in the morning when we see how it goes on the first big stages.”
End of day one (Thursday):
1 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota Yaris WRC) 3m21.5s
2 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota Yaris WRC) +0.3s
3 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota Yaris WRC) +0.7s
4 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +2.5s
5 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +5.0s
4 Takamoto Katsuta/Dan Barritt (Toyota Yaris WRC) +5.6s
9 Gus Greensmith/Chris Patterson (Ford Fiesta WRC) +6.1s
8 Oliver Solberg/Aaron Johnston (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +7.9s
9 Lorenzo Bertelli/Simone Scattolin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +9.0s
10 Adrien Fourmaux/Renaud Jamoul (Ford Fiesta WRC) +9.6s
(Results as of 15:00 on Thursday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)
On Friday the crews tackle a full day of stages along the southern shores of Lake Naivasha, with a trio of tests to be run twice either side of mid-day service. The second stage of the loop, Kedong, is the longest of the rally at 32.68 kilometres.