This year’s Safari Rally Kenya stages will be even tougher than last year’s edition according to several World Rally Championship drivers.
Kenya’s stages have always been difficult, but with a few amendments to the itinerary for this year, it seems the rally will be even harder than before.
That was immediately apparent on Monday, with some drivers getting stuck on recce and when they made it back, “rougher conditions” was a common theme.
“The feeling this year is maybe a bit better,” Kalle Rovanperä explained to DirtFish. “We know a bit better what’s coming.
“Of course, now it seems after the recce the stages look more rough than last year, more soft and also more fesh fesh than last year.
“So that’s something what’s going to be more challenging than last year.”
It’s also a view backed up by eight-time WRC champion Sébastien Ogier, who won last year’s Safari Rally.
“This year I think the challenge is even tougher, it looks like the stages have worsened in terms of conditions compared to last year,” he said.
“And the new sections are much more fesh-fesh, unpredictable sections where you don’t really know how it’s going to evolve.”
Gravel rallies are normally events that favor drivers who are lower down the running order. They can let the front-runners clean the roads, allowing them to attack the stages in a more aggressive manner.
It’s the exact reason why Ogier was keen on doing Portugal this year. Being further down the championship standings meant he had a better chance of winning the rally.
But Kenya’s unique in so many ways, and this is another element that makes it so different. Running lower in the order won’t be as big a benefit this weekend.
“No not really,” Ogier said when asked if there will be as much of an advantage for drivers.
“Some sections for sure, but there are also many sections… I mentioned this fesh-fesh where at the end it’s kind of worsened maybe after some cars and also the risk to have rocks on the line is bigger.
“So no, it’s not the kind of rally where you’re comfortable or thinking you can use an advantage starting behind.
“Also the dust, hopefully we are going to have big gaps between cars because again the fesh-fesh sections the dust is hanging very long, so early in the morning it can also be an issue.”
It’s natural that drivers will have concerns about the tougher conditions, but one driver who seems slightly more relaxed by the situation is Adrien Fourmaux.
He’s relishing the opportunity to tackle the Kenyan stages for a second time, and he actually thinks some tests are closer to the average gravel stage.
But there are two particular stages that the M-Sport knows could catch a few out.
“There is some stages which is a little bit less difficult for the car I would say. A bit more like European stages,” he said.
“But there are still really tricky stages like Kedong or Sleeping Warrior, where many things can happen with the rain, with really rocky sections.
“These two stages will be really tricky also this year.”