Why WRC's Safari tour is more than just a rally
OPINION: A source of national pride in Kenya, the Safari Rally is also a sporting, cultural and economic phenomenon. And as last weekend's World Rally Championship round reminded us, it's a key driver in establishing Africa’s place in world motorsport.
When a motorsport event has its own anthem, it’s a clear sign that this is a big deal. That was indeed the case for last weekend’s Safari Rally Kenya, one of motorsport’s last remaining great adventures. This anthem created for one event per year was belted out by a tuneful local choir to the masses gathered outside parliament buildings in Kenyan capital Nairobi, as the country’s president Uhuru Kenyatta greeted the World Rally Championship teams.
The reason for such fanfare is that the WRC’s trip to Kenya is the country’s largest sporting event and is deeply rooted in the nation’s culture. But the Safari isn’t just that, it’s currently Africa’s only opportunity to showcase itself to the motorsport world.
Thierry Neuville led a maiden Hyundai 1-2-3 in the World Rally Championship, as the previously soft i20 N became a battle-hardened Greek warrior at the Acropolis Rally. But with team orders in play between the winner and Hyundai’s title protagonist Ott Tanak, could the result come back to haunt the team?
After runaway World Rally Championship leader Kalle Rovanpera made his first major mistake of the season, the chance to take advantage was wide open for the chasing pack. Several of his rivals faltered to grasp the opportunity, but Ott Tanak made no such mistake and demonstrated his class with a third win of the campaign
Toyota locked out the top four places in the World Rally Championship's recent Safari Rally Kenya in a clear indication of its GR Yaris Rally1 hybrid's pace and durability. Motorsport.com was recently given a tour of the new factory where its cars are designed, tested and built, and it reveals much about the commitment of the Japanese marque to continued WRC success.
Finland may have a small population, but it has long enjoyed rallying success. Now that the nation has a new star to cheer in the form of Kalle Rovanpera, interest in the discipline is surging once again.
Kalle Rovanpera and Toyota went into Rally Finland as overwhelming favourites but came away as runners-up to a resurgent Ott Tanak and Hyundai. While it may have dampened the homecoming party, it still moved the Finn closer to the ultimate World Rally Championship prize
Hyundai is one of the World Rally Championship's big three, and has a brand-new travelling facility befitting of that status. The team invited Motorsport.com for a behind-the-scenes look at its state-of-the-art HQ, which comes complete with all the bells and whistles you'd expect of a top Formula 1 outfit.
After trailing Toyota teammate Elfyn Evans for much of Rally Estonia's opening day, WRC points leader Kalle Rovanpera took advantage of a change in the weather and never looked back afterwards. Winning for a fifth time this year at the scene of his 2021 breakthrough, and with a breathtaking powerstage bonus for good measure, his advantage is already looking difficult to topple.
Whether it’s the mountains of Monte Carlo, the snow of Sweden or the Kenya Savannah, the World Rally Championship is able to beam some of motorsport’s most spectacular footage to television screens while operating in the harshest of environments. Motorsport.com went behind the scenes to unearth the secrets that make this logistical challenge possible
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