Safari Rally Kenya 2024 form guide

Who's on top form and who desperately needs a result on Safari Rally Kenya?

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The waiting is finally over for the world’s best drivers as the World Rally Championship roars back into life for this week’s Safari Rally Kenya.

After the icy Tarmac of Monte Carlo, and the heavy snow of Sweden, Kenya gives the crews the first chance to test their speed on a loose surface this year, as the first of the eight gravel rallies in the season.

And gravel tests don’t come much more challenging than this, with rough roads, fesh-fesh and the prospect of the sudden downpours of the East African rainy season all awaiting the drivers on this historic and unique event. And there’s guaranteed to be a different winner than last year; Sébastien Ogier hasn’t returned for the 2024 edition.

But which crews are the best placed to succeed on Kenya’s grueling stages? And who just needs to survive the Safari adventure and bank precious world championship points?

Here’s our form guide ahead of this year’s Safari Rally Kenya.

#11 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1)

Last 3 WRC results: 4th-1st-13th
Best Kenya result: 5th (2022)

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The championship leader and his Hyundai team are riding high after a strong start to the season, in which the Belgian showed true class to winning the Monte Carlo Rally, followed by salvaging a decent chunk of points after starting first on the road in Sweden.

Neuville will again be first man on the road in Kenya, but whether that is a help or a hindrance depends on how the weather will impact proceedings. A dry rally could see him struggle, but a wet event could level the playing field, although it’s fair to say nobody really knows how this week’s weather will influence the event.

After the drama of last year’s disqualification in Kenya, due to conducting illegal reconnaissance, the Hyundai star will be keen to show his speed on the Safari, an event on which a podium result has thus far eluded him, this time around.

A top-three finish would be a welcome result for Neuville and serve him well in his WRC title challenge.

#33 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1)

Last 3 WRC results: 2nd-3rd-1st
Best Kenya result: 2nd (2022)

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Toyota’s Elfyn Evans has been the quiet achiever of 2024 thus far, having secured two podium finishes in two rallies where the feeling of his GR Yaris Rally1 hasn’t been quite to his liking.

A move back onto gravel may well help the Welshman find the speed he’s been looking for, and he’ll be encouraged by the fact that his Toyota team has dominated Safari Rally Kenya each year since its return to the WRC in 2021.

That said, Evans has appeared to be a step behind team-mates Sébastien Ogier and Kalle Rovanperä on previous editions of the rally. And with double world champion Rovanperä on this year’s entry list, and benefiting from strong road position, it might prove difficult to beat his Toyota rival on pace alone this time around.

Whether or not the Finn will lend Evans a hand in Kenya remains to be seen, but last year’s championship runner-up will surely be content with a third visit to the rostrum in as many events this term on the Safari.

#16 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (Ford Puma Rally1)

Last 3 WRC results: 3rd-5th-DNF
Best Kenya result: 5th (2021)

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While Esapekka Lappi may have won the event, Adrien Fourmaux was arguably the star of Rally Sweden. He finished third on the WRC’s only snow rally, sealing his first-ever WRC podium finish and putting to bed the demons of his troubled Rally1 campaign of 2022.

After that result, and moving up to third in the drivers’ standings, the Frenchman is riding a wave of momentum coming into Kenya. But despite all that positivity, the M-Sport driver isn’t getting carried away; he’s still just focused on scoring solid points at this stage of the season.

Safari Rally Kenya has been a happy hunting ground for Fourmaux in the past, winning his first ever WRC stage on the event in 2021 en route to a fifth-place finish, and repeating the feat in 2022 before hitting trouble. After missing last year’s edition, the Frenchman will be keen to add another solid Safari finish to his record.

Don’t be surprised if the Ford driver mixes it with the Toyotas and the Hyundais again this weekend.

#8 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai i20 N Rally1)

Last 3 WRC results: 41st-4th-6th
Best Kenya result: 3rd (2021)

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Ott Tänak’s recent run of results doesn’t read very Ott Tänak-like at all. After suffering from engine mapping issues on the Monte, and crashing out while battling for the lead on Rally Sweden, the Estonian already finds himself in a points hole as he seeks to add a second world title to the crown he captured in 2019.

While there’s no doubt the Hyundai star has the talent to win on any given rally, Kenya hasn’t been kind to him in the past. A podium on his first Safari start is the best finish he’s achieved in three attempts, but that arguably won’t be enough to satisfy Tänak this time around.

As he himself admits, he needs a big result from Kenya, and road position could play to his advantage as he looks to bag his first win since returning to the South Korean brand at the start of the year.

Look for Tänak to be on full attack from the get-go this weekend, and if the reliability of his i20 N Rally1 holds, look for him to be right there in the fight for victory too.

#4 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Hyundai i20 N Rally1)

Last 3 WRC results: 1st-4th-DNF
Best Kenya result: 12th (2023)

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A six-week break from WRC action is nothing for Esapekka Lappi. He waited over six years for his second career victory, which finally came last time out in Sweden; the ultimate proof that good things come to those who wait.

And the Finn will get a chance to carry that momentum into the very next WRC event, as he received the nod from Hyundai to drive the team’s third i20 N in Kenya.

Could we see a Lappi unleashed this weekend as a driver who finally has the confidence and composure to match his considerable natural ability? It’s certainly possible, and his strong road position gives him a good chance of making a great start to the event on Friday.

But this is only Lappi’s second Safari start, having missed the 2021 and 2022 editions when he wasn’t competing full-time in the series. Expecting another win might be a bit too much to ask of the now two-time World Rally winner, but a podium might not be beyond his reach. So long as ‘Mr Propshaft’ doesn’t make a return – he went through three of them on last year’s edition.

#18 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1)

Last 3 WRC results: 45th-7th-5th
Best Kenya result: 2nd (2021)

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In stark contrast to Lappi, Takamoto Katsuta comes into Safari Rally Kenya at perhaps the lowest ebb of his rallying career.

There have been many ups and downs since the Japanese star first got behind the wheel of a top-flight WRC car in 2019, but crashing out of the battle for the win in Sweden, when he was all-but guaranteed a top-two finish, will have hit the likable Toyota driver hard.

But there’s nowhere better for Katsuta to stage a comeback than Safari Rally Kenya. He’s been hugely successful on African soil, securing two podium finishes from three starts in Kenya, including a career-best second place finish in 2021.

While the speed in his GR Yaris Rally1 may be there this weekend, Katsuta just needs some solid points to rebuild his confidence and get his season back on more solid ground.

#69 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1)

Last 3 WRC results: 39th-3rd-2nd
Best Kenya result: 1st (2022)

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After making the first start of his part-season campaign in Sweden, the reigning champion is back for more in Kenya. And as the only Safari winner in the field, and a very strong road position (as long as the weather doesn’t change that fact), nobody would bet against him taking the trophy home to Finland after this weekend.

That said, his crash while leading last month’s Rally Sweden raised a few eyebrows; he simply pushed too hard and misread the tricky conditions, and that’s not something we often hear said of the double world champion.

It was a crash that, amazingly, means it’s now more than six months since Rovanperä won a round of the WRC. That’s a statistic that won’t sit well with a man who has stated that his only goal is to win more rallies than ever before this season.

Rovanperä will be hungry for success in Kenya, and he’ll surely be able to put his Sweden mistake behind him and fight for the victory all the way through to Sunday.

#13 Grégoire Munster/Louis Louka (Ford Puma Rally1)

Last 3 WRC results: 23th-20th-7th
Best Kenya result: DNF (WRC2 2023)

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Another weekend and another huge learning curve awaits Grégoire Munster this weekend as he continues to get to grips with his M-Sport Ford Puma Rally1.

But strangely, he does have more Kenyan rallying experience than most of his Rally1 rivals, owing to his participation in last year’s East African Safari Classic Rally as co-driver to his mentor and backer Jourdan Serderidis.

While the week-long historic event may have given Munster a taste of Safari Rallies from years gone by, it likely won’t help him find more speed in his more modern machinery in his first Rally1 start in Kenya.

Bringing the car home to the finish without a major incident will be the Belgian driver’s goal on the Safari; something he’s failed to do in both his WRC starts so far this year.

#19 Jourdan Serderidis/Frédéric Miclotte (Ford Puma Rally1)

Last 3 WRC results: 17th-DNF-25th
Best Kenya result: 7th (2022)

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Greek privateer Jourdan Serderidis returns for another Rally1 outing in Kenya, despite apparently retiring from the class after last year’s Acropolis Rally Greece.

Not that we’re holding that against him of course; it’s great to have the charismatic M-Sport customer back in the field, and Serderidis has shown in the past that he’s certainly capable of bringing home a result in Kenya.

Two years ago, the 2017 WRC Trophy winner finished seventh on the rally just by driving with his head and keeping his Puma Rally1 on the road. If chaos ensues this weekend, Serderidis could find himself well inside the top 10 on this year’s Safari.

However, a strong finishing position won’t be the goal for the Greek in his comeback drive; he’ll just be looking to have fun on one of the WRC’s most spectacular events.

Words:James Bowen

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