WRC

Safari Rally Kenya: Introduction

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1999 Safari Rally Kenya Official Site: http://www.safarirally.co.ke Unofficial Site: http://www.thesafarirally.com/ Round 3 of the 1999 FIA World Rally Championship 25-28 February 1999 The Safari is very different from the European special ...

1999 Safari Rally Kenya Official Site: http://www.safarirally.co.ke Unofficial Site: http://www.thesafarirally.com/ Round 3 of the 1999 FIA World Rally Championship 25-28 February 1999

The Safari is very different from the European special stage events and is run almost entirely on ordinary public roads. The event has long required reliability and endurance from car and crew rather than pure speed and yet it is one of the fastest events on the rally calendar. Some average stage speeds reach 145kph! This year’s Safari Rally is one of the shortest in history but nevertheless covers a total distance of approximately 2,700 kilometres, twice that of traditional European-based events.

There are a couple of key points about the Safari which make it different from other World Rallies:

- Speed vs reliability: although competition is fierce, speed in the Safari does not always determine with winner. Vehicle realiability over the long stages is critical, particularly as the stages are up to 10 times longer than on other WRC events. Also, knowing when to slow down is just as important as knowing when to speed up.

- Car strength: WRC cars are especially built for the Safari. To withstand the high speeds over rough ground, the cars must be stronger in every way

- snorkel/bullbar: due to the dusty and sometime very wet conditions most cars run an air intake that extends from under the bonnet to the roof. Also, Safari competitors have been know to encounter wildlife during sections, and therefore use a front bull bar. Both these modification add considerable character to the cars.

- tyres: because of the high speed sections, if a driver gets a puncture, they can lose a lot of ground to their competitors. Generally ATS anti-deflation mousse is used in all the tyres

- driver fitness: naturally this is important on any event, but the long stages and high temperatures make this critical.

Weather: is expected to be sunny and approx 32 deg C (90F)

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Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart

The Kenyan event is notoriously hard - the longest, fastest, hottest and roughest rally in the World Rally Championship - and it is perhaps the most difficult rally of all to win. It demands huge resources and Mitsubishi has sent no fewer than five rally cars to Nairobi to cover the event itself and testing. It is a Kenyan institution. Massive, wildly enthusiastic crowds follow the progress of the cars and the newspapers are dominated by rally news during the event.

World Rally Champions Tommi Makinen and Risto Mannisenmaki are understandably confident. The Finnish duo have won five of their last six events for Mitsubishi and they already have a handsome World Rally Championship lead in their Michelin-equipped Lancer Evolution.

Tommi has a very good record in Kenya and he is obviously capable of winning no matter what the conditions.It will be another baptism of fire for Freddy, but he has been to the Safari before and he is quite capable of coming up with a good result. There's a lot of good opposition and winning again certainly won't be easy, but we've proved in recent months that the car is tough and reliable, which is exactly what you need for the Safari," said Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart team manager Phil Short.

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Toyota Castrol Team

Since its first competitive outing in the Safari Rally in 1984 with the awesomely powerful Celica, Toyota has taken victory in this, the world’s toughest motorsport event, no fewer than eight times. In a bid to maintain its domination in Kenya, this year the Toyota Castrol Team will assist Toyota Kenya with the running of Kenyan ace Ian Duncan in a third Corolla WRC. Team regulars Carlos Sainz and Didier Auriol will handle the points-nominated cars in this, round three of the championship.

Nairobi-born Ian Duncan returns to the Toyota family for the Safari Rally this year. The 37-year old Kenyan veteran has contested his home event no less than 14 times, taking victory in 1994 in a privately-entered Celica. After an enforced sabbatical last year due to a broken leg, Duncan is set to provide valuable assistance to the team’s regular drivers.

"Because the rally has changed over the last few years, local knowledge is not as critical as it used to be, but even so it is always a benefit," said Ian, "and realistically, in spite of the competition from the top guys, I think we can finish in the top three.

"One of the keys to success in Kenya is having good pace notes and knowing where you can drive flat-out," said Didier.

"The Safari is now more like a sprint event," said Carlos. "The speeds are much higher, like European rallies, and it is important to have a strong car that can go flat out in the rough conditions for long periods.

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Subaru World Rally Team

The Subaru World Rally Team drivers have quickly dispelled thoughts of Sweden, and are in buoyant mood for 47th running of this classic event. Boasting last year's winner, Richard Burns, and having won in the previous year, the team rank highly among the pre-event favourites

On the start ramp in Nairobi on Thursday next week, Juha Kankkunen, four times World Champion, will become the sport's most experienced driver to add to his records as he surpasses Markku Alen's tally of 129 World Championship event starts

"The Safari has always been my favourite event of the season. OK, it has changed, and now is more of a fast sprint event than it used to be, and I think this means succeeding is less dependent on experience, but records aside, I am still confident of winning here" said Kankkunen

Richard Burns: "I know - Tommi (Makinen) is on a high at the moment, Toyota are traditionally strong in Africa, and of course my own team-mates - especially Juha - are all candidates to win. But I'm not intimidated by this, and with last year's success behind me, I know I can do it."

The Subaru World Rally Team's third entrant, Bruno Thiry, was deprived of experience of the Safari Rally after sustaining an injury in practice last year, and looks to his second place on the Ivory Coast Rally in 1992 for some kind of indication of the rally's character Bruno Thiry

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Ford Martini http://media.ford.com

"The Safari is unique," said 30-year-old McRae. "It's a rally any of the top drivers can win because outright speed doesn't guarantee success on endurance events like this. Reliability is the most important factor and you need a slice of luck to do well. It's important to think about your driving on all rallies and the Safari is no different but you must drive in a different way, pacing yourself rather than going flat out from the start.

"The heat and endurance combine to make the Safari a harder event physically than any other. The constantly changing conditions mean you must vary the pace a lot on the same section and that's harder than driving at the same speed because it means changing your rhythm. The Focus feels a good Safari car. It's strong and if we have the reliability it'll be good."

For Solberg, competing on the Safari is a story straight from the adventure books. After finishing 11th in Sweden on his debut with Ford, the 24-year-old Norwegian was preparing for a small rally in his home country. A late night telephone call from Ford Martini World Rally Team director Malcolm Wilson told him to abandon his plans and instead take the next flight to Kenya as team-mate Thomas Rådström had slipped in the team's Nairobi hotel and broken his left leg. Solberg was to replace him.

"I feel very sorry for Thomas but from a personal point of view this is a fantastic opportunity for me at this stage in my career. It will be my fourth world championship event and for that to be one of the most famous and the most challenging rallies in the championship is a daunting but exciting prospect," said Solberg.

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Seat Sport

Fitted with the distinctive front bull bars and air-intake pipe mounted on the A-pillar, the SEAT WRC has been tested at high-speed on some of Europe’s roughest roads to ensure it is super-strong for the world’s most bone-shaking rally.

Last year Rovanperä drove an Ibiza Kit Car to an amazing 5th overall in Kenya, and won the two-litre category by over 14 minutes. This year the 32 years old Finn returns with a much faster four-wheel drive SEAT WRC and a new Safari Rally tactic.

"This year we only have one tactic: to drive fast everywhere", promised Rovanperä

Liatti, unlike the rest of SEAT Sport, will be making his third appearance on the Safari Rally, having contested in 1996, finishing 5th, and in 1998. His co-driver, Carl Cassina, will start the rally for the first time, but he has been involved in co-ordinating many rally tests in Kenya before and knows the country well.

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1998 Top 10 1 Richard BURNS/Robert REID Mitsubishi Carisma GT 8:75:34 2 Juha KANKKUNEN/Juha REPO Ford Escort WRC 9:07:01 3 Ari VATANEN/Fred GALLAGHER Ford Escort WRC 9:07:26 4 Didier AURIOL/Denis GIRAUDET ToyotaCorolla WRC 9:12:00 5 Harri ROVANPERA/V.SILANDER SEATIbiza GTI 16v 11:03:12 6 Raimund BAUMSCHLAGER/K.WICHA VolkswagenGolf Gti Kit 11:17:35 7 Luis CLIMENT/Alex ROMANI Mitsubishi Lancer Evo3 11:25:37 8 Kris Rosenberger/Per CARLSSON VolkswagenGolf Gti Kit 11:43:21 9 Marco BRIGHETTI/Abdul SIDI Subaru Impreza 11:53:35 10 Karim HIRJI/Frank NEKUSA Toyota Celica GT4 12:01:03

----------------------------------------------------------- "Cynan 'Dusty' Rhodes" <cynan@harvestroad.com.au>

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