Safari Rally Kenya winner Sébastien Ogier has called for Rally1 cars to feature Safari-specific modifications in the future.
Traditionally, cars competing on the World Rally Championship’s iconic African event were fitted with a multitude of modified or additional parts to combat the unique challenge of its terrain and wildlife.
Snorkels to prevent the engine drowning, frontal bullbars and additional wing-mounted headlights were among the most visually noticeable features of a Safari-spec car.
But neither the World Rally Cars of 2021, nor the Rally1 cars of today, have featured such modifications.
With a drive to cut costs down at the top of the WRC, manufacturers agreed that homologating special parts for a single event did not make sense – particularly if the route of the rally can be adapted to avoid the most hazardous areas as it was in 2023, which featured less fesh-fesh sections than the previous two iterations.
Ironically, second-tier Rally2 machinery have still sported Safari-specific modifications. Snorkels and bullbars were a common sight in the class, won by Kajetan Kajetanowicz’s Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo. Similarly, devices to deflect fesh-fesh sand from the radiator, and therefore help prevent overheating, were used.
That discrepancy was not lost on Ogier, who suffered a down-on-power engine as it overheated on the final day after the deep fesh-fesh of the Oserian stage, and reckoned that it “was close to being game over for us”.
Talking about the various obstacles he had had to overcome, the eight-time world champion told DirtFish: “The last one was probably the biggest one, with the overheating issue on the penultimate stage with a lot of temperature in the engine. And obviously some damage as well because we finished powerstage with reduced power, it was clear. Glad that we are at the end.
“Our cars are not really made to deal with fesh-fesh, unfortunately. It really feels a shame that WRC2 can make this modification and we are not allowed. It would not be anything expensive, it’s just destroying cars sometimes for nothing.
“Maybe that’s something to think about for the future because there’s little things that make not so much sense, and then honestly we have not so much things to do. You go through and you just get stuck because of too much fesh-fesh and too much temperature and air filter blocked.
“But OK, we survived it somehow.”
Historically, Toyota has steered clear of the introduction of snorkels, feeling its own countermeasures have been enough to deal with the rigors of modern-day rallying in Africa.