Once again, Safari Rally Kenya proved the toughest test of the season for the World Rally Championship’s current contingent.
The Safari Rally has always pushed drivers to the absolute limit and this year was no different. But was it a challenge too far?
Fesh-fesh was a huge talking point in 2022. It crippled cars, pushing them to the extreme, and in some instances even canceled parts of stages. With WRC teams no longer heading into the Kenyan wilderness with specifically prepared cars, there are question marks as to whether it should feature so prominently on the stages.
As M-Sport team principal Richard Millener put it: “The conditions exceeded our expectations, especially the fesh-fesh, which was effectively a lottery and perhaps a bit over the limit of what these new Rally1 cars can handle.”
And speaking in the latest episde of SPIN, The Rally Pod (which can be listened to in-full above), George Donaldson agrees.
“I agree that there is no point in creating a rally that just becomes a matter of attrition,” he said. “That is a pointless affair.
“And that was the risk with the fesh-fesh because fesh-fesh deteriorates very quickly and becomes deeper and deeper, and you could effectively just about stop the rally in it.
“So it’s a risky strategy from the point of view of continuity of the event.
“I don’t see the point of killing the cars. On this rally there were plenty of challenges, plenty of drama, plenty of speedy sections and plenty of sections where you have to preserve the car.
“There was all that without needing the fesh-fesh.”
But while Donaldson doesn’t believe the stages had to feature so much fesh-fesh, he doesn’t see an issue with it if it’s used in small doses.
“A couple of short 50 meter fesh-fesh sections if you find some little loops you can do that, and they did exist on the estate roads of the nature conservancies,” he said.
“So yeah, you could have done that. I’m sure the organizers will be looking at it.
“They’ll take on the comments, the critique and they will make a stronger, better event next year maintaining the challenge.”
It’s all well and good removing a primary challenging element from the rally in order to make the event kinder on the cars, but it also risks affecting the challenge that everyone has come to love over the years.
Safari is different, it’s like no other event in the world, so organizers have to be careful not to lose its true spirit.
But Donaldson believes it is totally achievable.
“I’ve got some great ideas. I’m looking at the old review map right now and what you could do with this is just amazing.
“There’s a lot more, and they are aware of it. But I think we will see an even better event next year and for those people saying ‘thats pointless, what’s the point of destroying the rally car?’ I can absolutely agree with your sentiment and totally understand it.
“The teams are not making special cars so we should not expect them to do the impossible. It’s pointless. There’s no winners in that scenario.
“So yeah, I think we’ll see those attended to next year and we’ll see the event moving on to creating more of the very pertinent challenges that keep the sport within the flavour, but still giving it that Safari test.
“I’m sure we’ll get that without a doubt.”