Star drivers relish first day of recce

Tuesday, June 21st, 2022 06:29 | By
Sean Johnston with his navigator Alexander Kihurani power their Citroen C3 car during the Pre-Event Test at Chui Lodge on Sunday. PD/ NELSON JEREMY
Sean Johnston with his navigator Alexander Kihurani power their Citroen C3 car during the Pre-Event Test at Chui Lodge on Sunday. PD/ NELSON JEREMY

All the top rally drivers have descended on Naivasha for this year’s WRC Safari Rally that will be flagged off on Thursday at KICC in Nairobi and end on Sunday at the Hells Gate stage in Naivasha.

The drivers spent the better part of yesterday testing their machines on the first day of recce at the Loldia stage, which will be the second stage of the rally.

Some of the drivers had a feel of the route on Sunday during a pre-event test at Chui Lodge and they will be back for the final day of recce today before they embark on serious business with the shakedown tomorrow.

At the Service Park yesterday, Kenyans finally savoured firsthand experience with hybrid-powered Rally1 competition cars which were airlifted into the country last week ahead of Thursday’s flag-off.

The state- of- the-art cars have already occupied their designated zones at the KWS Service Park in Naivasha giving the local rally lovers a sneak preview of what to expect in the next few days.

While the drivers went out to familiarise themselves with the route course on Day One of the reconnaissance, mechanics from the three World Rally Teams (Ford M-Sport, Toyota Gazoo Racing and Hyundai Motorsport) gave their machines a thorough going-over in service.

This is to ensure that the Rally 1s are in good nick as the Safari adventure nears. The cars will have their first real run on Wednesday’s Shakedown at Ndulele Conservancy.

WRC Safari Rally CEO Phineas Kimathi was equally excited with Kenya being the only country outside Europe to host the new generation cars introduced into the World Rally Championship (WRC) in January 2022.

“This Rally 1 cars have never been to Africa before and this will be the first time we will be seeing these Rally1 machine race outside Europe. The cars use electric energy as well as fossil-free fuel.”

Kimathi also advised all and sundry to avoid touching the hybrid car when the car shows a red signal.

“When the hybrids show a yellow or green signal, you can touch it. But when it gives the red -danger signal, do not touch it until the experts arrive.”

The Rally1 regulations are designed to move the WRC into a much more sustainable future and to attract new manufacturers.

They have resulted in Hyundai, Toyota and M-Sport Ford designing and building all-new cars around a new safer, steel spaceframe chassis.

The biggest change to the cars is the introduction of a mandatory 100kW hybrid unit coupled to the 1.6-litre turbocharged internal combustion engine, the only key component carried over from the previous generation of cars. In tandem, this will allow the powertrain to develop 500bhp to be used in short bursts across every stage.

So how does the hybrid system work? Drivers will be required to use hybrid power during every stage, with power boosts activated by the throttle pedal, while further boosts will be unlocked through energy regeneration under braking during stages.

The WRC Safari will feature 12 hybrid cars featuring the three manufacturers. M-Sport Ford has the highest number with five Rally1 cars to be driven by Sebastien Loeb, Adrien Fourmaux, Gus Greensmith, Craig Breen and Jourdan Serderidis of Greece.

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