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WRC Rally Kenya

Tanak: Sections of tougher WRC Safari Rally ”like driving on the moon”

World Rally Championship drivers are expecting a much tougher Safari Rally Kenya this weekend, with Ott Tanak describing some sections as like “driving on the moon.”

Rougher gravel stages caused by the recent weather plus further heavy rain showers forecast this week have several drivers predicting that the 70th anniversary edition of the event will be one of the most difficult in recent memory.

While the event’s 19 stages remain largely the same routes, some sections of the stages have changed dramatically, requiring crews to make new pacenotes.

Tanak has labelled Saturday’s six stages as a “disaster” given their difficulty, which will be heightened should rain showers arrive.

“Generally saying I think Friday's stages will be quite nice, but Saturday will be a disaster and Sunday is a bit mixed," Tanak told Motorsport.com. “It is proper Safari spec and I would say more than we have seen in the last couple of years.

“Last year was not too bad and the year before maybe a bit more tough, but this year in some places on Saturday it is like driving on the moon. It is going to be quite a lottery.

“It is just some general roughness and sometimes it is difficult to find the road driving on the fields.

“There are stones and rocks and things in places that are quite difficult to understand where they have come from. For sure, if it is raining we will have some deep mud holes as well.

“It's not going to be about the fastest driver that will win. It will be the first driver to finish. I would say given how the Saturday stages are it will be difficult for the smartest driver to manage. You need to be lucky.”

Kalle Rovanpera, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Kalle Rovanpera, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: Toyota Racing

Championship leader Kalle Rovanpera, who will be first into the stages, believes there will be an increased focus on staying out of trouble given how much the stages have changed.

“It seems some parts are quite good but many parts after the rain are even more rough, a lot of gravel and sand has been washed away,” Rovanpera said.

“I think it will be tough. Starting from the first stage on Friday morning we have a rocky section and I think it starts from there where you have to stay out of trouble.

“Some parts fo the stages are really different, we have been changing the notes completely and some corners are not there and some corners are new. There is a lot of change.”

Fresh from winning a rain-affected Rally Sardinia earlier this month, Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville agrees with Rovanpera regarding the changing appearances of the roads from last year.

“It has changed quite a lot from last year,” said Neuville. “There are plenty of places where you do not recognise the stages anymore. It feels like a different stage.

“The grass is very high and there is much more grass on the road. Some of the rough sections are much tougher and some have completely disappeared, so the recce was challenging. We had all the pacenotes but we had to change a lot.

“Some stages you can attack and generally when somebody attacks and they get through without problem they tend to win the rally so we are going to have to find a good balance between staying close and sometimes accepting to lose some time.”

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