NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 10 – The eagerly awaited WRC Safari Rally that makes a comeback in Kenya for the first time in 19-years will highly depend on the navigators for the drivers to either excel or fail in the technical and picturesque nature of the route, according to officials.
“Generally, the rally is a navigators affair, let’s be honest about that, for the pure reason that navigators will have to control their drivers not to break their cars. This is not Wales and neither is it Finland. It is Safari. It’s a long game. It might be a short rally from the look of things but you have to think long when driving on Safari. You might come with a maximum attack strategy on a first outing, but all in all, it will not be an easy ride,” Deputy Clerk of the Course Nazir Yakub described the route.
Nazir noted that sections on both Naivasha and Soysambu Conservancy sides are both technical “and basically all the same”.
“This are all degraded lava fields and the same soil profile. It’s at the floor of the Great Rift Valley for both and the surface is all the same. The thing that automatically changes is the amount of rockery on South Lake side and the terrain which is hilly as you know,” the deputy clerk of course explained.
This year’s WRC Safari Rally Kenya will be interesting in many facets, for one, the current crop of WRC P1 and P2 drivers are yet to compete on African soil and Nazir believes “it’ll be a completely new challenge”.
Nazir believes WRC drivers will have no choice but to think of the last day of the rally.
This year’s Safari will culminate with the Hell’s Gate power stage.
“For our local boys it’s a challenge because they are competing against people on top of the game. We might have a little awareness of the surface but when you’re competing against the very best drivers in the world it’s something different. The challenge of world drivers is that they will have to keep up with the best of the best in the world,” Nazir said.
On his part retired veteran navigator, Abdul Sidi said the navigators are key to the WRC Safari Rally and will be the determining factor.
“All the stages are very tight and have lots of junctions as well as many jumps and this is where the navigators come in. The navigator has to be ready and armed with pace notes to guide the driver, navigators and divers will be given an opportunity to go through the route before the rally to get familiar with it and take pace notes,” Sidi, who navigated the famed Patrick Njiru said.
The most interesting aspect of Soysambu Conservancy section is the picturesque landscape which has the famous Sleeping Warrior hill and indeed Lake Elementaita which is a heaven of Flamengo birds.
The Hill behind the stage is the famous “Sleeping Warrior”, always asleep but very lethal on the rally weekend.
The last few Kilometres of Sleeping Warrior will be a tough rocky ride.
Elementaita will be a 15kms stage, Soysambu 20km and Sleeping Warrior 32km. The volcanic ash Kedon stage, which is the longest stage, is 33km.