Safari Rally Kenya flagged off by President Ruto

Safari Rally Kenya flagged off by President Ruto

The 70th edition Safari Rally Kenya was officially flagged off by Kenyan President William Ruto on Wednesday in Naivasha, Kenya as he was presented with a front-row seat to the FIA World Rally Championship.

Ruto visited the rally’s service park near Lake Naivasha with Sport Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba. After mingling with crew members, Ruto stepped into Pierre-Louis Loubet’s M-Sport Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid’s co-driver seat for a quick shakedown lap.

The Kenyan President was surprised by the experience and will attend the celebration with the winners on Sunday at Hell’s Gate.

“I don’t know what to say, that thing is crazy!” he beamed, gesturing towards Loubet’s Puma. “Absolute madness – but it is an experience you cannot forget.

“The sheer speed, you can hardly see the road, you can hardly see the bend… These guys are really professional, it’s a life-changing adventure.”

“It is not just about the rally car, it is not just about the drivers, it is not just about the support teams – it is a whole of Kenya event,” Ruto added by highlighting the effect WRC is having on Kenya on a national level. “The carnival, the excitement, the celebration – it is just that captivating.

“Millions of Kenyans are engrossed in this. We will have great difficulty tomorrow and Friday to keep everybody at work!

“Those who have reasons will look for those reasons, those who don’t have reasons will look for excuses… I will be working tomorrow, unfortunately for me,” he joked.

Kalle Rovanperä who is the championship leader will be the driver to beat as he pursues back-to-back Safari victories in a Toyota GR Yaris when the action gets underway in Nairobi on Thursday afternoon. A 1-2-3-4 finish for the Japanese manufacturer here last year was made possible by Sébastien Ogier, Elfyn Evans, and Takamoto Katsuta, and all three are back this time around.

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Esapekka Lappi, Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo all Hyundai contenders, start the rally with confidence after finishing second and third in their previous race in Italy, however Lappi acknowledges that this is his first time participating in the Safari rally.

Third in the standings Ott Tänak leads the charge for M-Sport Ford. In identical Puma cars, the Estonian pairs up with young Frenchman Pierre-Louis Loubet and Greek privateer Jourdan Serderidis.

Long, straight roads with potential top speeds of 200 km/h mix with rugged, rutted paths and deep fesh-fesh sand that can slow down cars to barely faster than walking speed.

Additionally, thunderstorms are expected during the four-day event, which should heighten the excitement. If the forecast is accurate, rain could quickly turn the dry areas into dangerous mud pits.

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