All 13 rounds of the World Rally Championship are worth the same 30 points as each other.
Emotional value aside, there’s no rally that’s more important to win than any other.
But that might not be quite true this week, at least in the case of Thierry Neuville.
The Hyundai ace is placing added importance on a Safari Rally Kenya victory, and it’s not hard to understand why.
After two difficult events – a mistake in Croatia and turbo trouble in Portugal – Neuville underlined his championship credentials with a bounceback win in Sardinia.
The good news for reigning champion and current points leader Kalle Rovanperä was that he still grew his championship lead to 25 points.
The bad news is it’s now Neuville behind him once again, and the Belgian must be who Rovanperä fears most given the strength of Hyundai’s challenge and its clear willingness to boost Neuville’s points haul wherever it can.
Six rounds in, seven to go; game on.
Why the added value in a Safari victory then?
Take it away, Thierry.
“We all know Kenya can be a good event, our car is quite reliable and strong in such rough conditions,” Neuville began.
Don’t forget the heartbreak of the final morning in 2021 too, when victory was snatched from Neuville’s hands. And Toyota’s dominant 1-2-3-4 finish last year. Both of those factors must increase the incentive to top the podium in Kenya.
“But we also know that Finland and Estonia aren’t my privileged surfaces and races in the calendar and they are definitely the ones where Kalle is going to be strong,” Neuville continued.
“So it was important to take some good points [in Sardinia], but it is going to be even more important to have a good event in Kenya and grab some more points, especially more than Kalle on that event.
“The battle will be on there, and it is going to be a tough challenge again as always, but I am really looking forward to that because I have a good feeling.”
With two events on the horizon that Neuville has very openly said don’t suit him, he needs to make hay while the sun is still shining.
Neuville is clever enough to know that Rovanperä will fly in both Estonia and Finland. As will Ott Tänak, and Esapekka Lappi too. Barring any drama, Neuville’s best hope for even a podium on either rally is likely to come by shadowing his team-mate Lappi.
Those two events will all be about damage limitation, so Kenya will be about inflicting maximum damage himself.
“The goal is definitely to win, so we will keep fighting all the way through; as we know very well, the rally isn’t over until it’s over,” Neuville concluded.
“We saw that two years ago when we were leading, and then unfortunately had an issue just before the end. Hopefully we get the victory this year.”