Reigning champion Ogier is hoping to retain title as Shake Down curtain raises WRC Safari Rally
Reigning WRC Safari Rally champions Sebastien Ogier hopes to make it two wins in a row as the event begins today with the Shake Down in Naivasha.
The French driver was speaking to People Sport yesterday after completing a two-day reconnaissance and remained optimistic of successful title defense but admits it would not be a walk in the park.
“Last year we had a really nice welcoming and a great atmosphere,” Ogier said, adding: “To win was the cherry on the cake and it will be great to try to repeat that this year with a bit of knowledge of what to expect from the stages.”
“It’s definitely a rally where you have to never give up, and this year with the cars still being so new, we might have to be even more clever than before,” he added.
After the two-day reconnaissance, focus now shifts to the 5.4km Loldia Shakedown Stage in the expansive Ndulele Conservancy where crews will savour the opportunity to test their competition cars on a terrain similar to the rally before the event starts on Thursday.
Competitors will drive through today’s Shakedown Stage at least three times, with all passes being timed.
The first car will run its first pass at 10.01am giving spectators the first look of the state-of-the-art hybrid powered contraptions which were introduced into the World Rally Championship (WRC) in the 2022 season opening Monte Carlo Rally.
Drivers predicted another tough run in Kenya after completing a rigorous two-day reconnaissance which saw them go round the 1223.77km route course.
Hyundai driver Craig Breen, who will be making his debut in Kenya, spoke of culture shock as he endured a whole new experience in reconnaissance.
“I wasn’t here last year, so I am looking forward to the new adventure in Kenya.
I have seen different places during reconnaissance and this is definitely the toughest route in the championship (WRC). It’s a big culture shock obviously because I haven’t been to Kenya before,” he said.
“Kenya is a beautiful country and I’m looking forward to seeing what the rally would be in the coming days,” Breen commented of his experience in the lakeside city.
Oliver Solberg of Hyundai enjoyed his reconnaissance session. He is determined to end his bad run in Kenya which started in reconnaissance.
“My first Safari recce last year was a good experience. But things didn’t work as I expected but this year we are much better prepared with more testing of the car, so hopefully we can have a good run here. The conditions are the same for everybody, but I mean, you have to be clever in this rally. As you saw last year Ogier was just controlling…controlling… the car and eventually he emerged the winner.”
Ott Tanak said: “It’s nice to be back here.
It’s quite a different place from Europe. Safari is quite different and adventurous from the onset. I go for it but it will be a demanding weekend.”