70th Safari Rally Kenya pushes drivers to dig deeper in Naivasha

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The rusty and dusty terrain of Naivasha hosted the 70th edition of the Safari Rally Kenya with the top rally drivers in the world needing to dig deep to finish on the top step.

The rally might be challenging for the drivers with obstacles and misfortune lurking in close proximity but the race is also an opportunity for Nakuru County to show off its beauty to the rallying world.

This round of the World Rally Championship delivered excellent driving for keen onlookers, who came out in their numbers to watch these skilled pilots fighting the elements, pushing their cars to the absolute limits, and very often, many of them finished with bruises.

The race was not short of firsts as the women drivers went a step further from last year’s race when Maxine Wahome made history by becoming the first woman to win a round in the World Rally Championship’s WRC3 class at Safari Rally Kenya.

This year for the first time ever in the history of the race, the sport featured a mother and daughter crew of Caroline and Tinashe Gatimu behind the wheel of a Mitsubishi Lancer.

Other all-women’s crew partaking in this year’s race were Jenifer Ayetsa and Wangui Mungai, Pauline Sheghu and Linet Ayuko who was driving Subaru, and former KNRC Division 3 Champions Natasha Tundo and Chantal Young in a Subaru.

As for the all-conquering Toyota Gazoo Racing team, they brought their heavy artillery for the race and when quizzed about the process of assembling a team of notorious winners, this is what team principal and former rally driver Jari-Matti Latvala had to say about finding those perfect drivers.

Team Principal Of Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team Jari-Matti Latvala says, “Questions are often asked about the value of racing programmes teams which are run at huge expense and one of the biggest benefits of running these programmes is the level of development, that is often transferred to the normal racing cars we drive on a daily.”

4-Time Rally Drivers World Champion Juha Kankkunen says, “When a super team like Toyota Gazoo Racing has in it’s stables, the reigning world champion and championship leader in Kalle Rovanperä, an eight time world champion Sébastien Ogier and the super competitive Elfyn Evans and Takamoto Katsuta, team management is easier said than done as this ambitious bunch are always looking for the highest step on the podium.”

Latvala says, “Compared to last, the general consensus seems to be that Africa’s sole World Rally Championship race provided a sterner test this time around…” -Reporting by Thando Mxoli