WRC Safari Rally Kenya Returns
The WRC Safari Rally returned to Kenya in June 2021 after being off the calendar for close to 19years. The last safari rally was held in July 2002 in Kenya along the Rift Valley.
The 2021 season of the WRC Safari Rally saw the entrance of new WRC series cars as well as new young drivers who have not experienced a safari terrain before.
Some of the world champion drivers to participate in this year’s safari rally include; Sebastien Ogier (2021 WRC safari rally winner), Takamoto Katsuta ( 2nd runner up), Thierry Neuville (series favourite but retired at stage 18), Ott Tanak (3rd runner up), Elfyn Evans, Dani Sordo among others.
— Sébastien Ogier (@SebOgier) June 28, 2021
There were also some Kenyan favourites like Onkar Rai, Karan Patel, Carl Tundo, Tejveer Rai (who retired after an accident). These local drivers have experience on this terrain although it does not make it easy for them.
WRC Safari Rally Itinerary
The scheduled date for the rally was from 24th to 27th June with the service area set up at Kenya Wildlife Training Institute in Naivasha. The service area was at the heart of the Rift Valley overlooking Lake Naivasha.
Shakedown Stage 23rd June
Shakedown took place at the forested area adjacent to the Loldia Airstrip. This is a stage for rigorous car testing or trial journey before the actual rally. The stage runs for 5.4 km with a spectator zone that is large enough to hold a big crowd away from the wildlife and also spectacular views of the cars with Lake Naivasha in the background.
Day 1, Ceremonial Start and the Super Special Stage 24th June
It has always been a tradition for the Kenya Safari Rally to start at the iconic Kenyatta International Conference Centre. This is usually flagged-off by the president while local spectators throng the city streets of Nairobi for a view of the beautiful speed cars.
This was followed in the afternoon by the Super Stage Special help at Moi International Sports Complex, Kasarani. At this stage, two drivers were racing head-to-head at a 4.84 km custom-built stretch.
President Uhuru Kenyatta officially flags off WRC Safari Rally at KICC ahead of the Super Special stage at Kasarani starting at 14:08 Hours#WRC #SafariRallyKenya
📷: @StateHouseKenya pic.twitter.com/xJIW5qqehE
— Safari Rally Kenya (@wrcsafarirally) June 24, 2021
Day 2, Kedong Ranch Series 25th June
The event took place at the southern shore of Lake Naivasha at the Kedong Ranch. The rally started at the Chui Lodge area which is a highly forested area and has a high buffalo population. This was followed by the Oserian stage which is also in the Oserengoni Wildlife Conservancy Estate. This is home to lions, leopards, giraffes, antelopes and buffaloes hence not open to the public.
The third stage of the day’s event happened at Kedong ranch starting at the gate near Sopa Lodge. This part of the race has been used many times in the past Safari rallies. It is 36.68 km long and offers breathtaking views with the magnificent Mt Longonot in the background.
There were two spectator stages in this section, one accessible from the Longonot gate past Mt Longonot Park and the other through the Sawela Gate. This offered an unobstructed view of the cars with magnificent background of Kenya’s beautiful landscape.
It was the toughest of the races covering 129.78 km at the end of the day. It however saw some great drivers retiring their cars due to various mechanical issues. One driver had to be airlifted for special treatment after their car rolled several times.
Day 3, Soysambu Conservancy Series 26th June
The day’s rally went further north around the magnificent flamingo-filled Lake Elementaita. The roads around this day’s series are lava-filled with a couple of river crossings. This made it the most iconic stage of the rally.
The rally started from the road section near Elementaita at the Delamere Estate. They later moved on to the Soysambu Conservancy which was marked by some river crossings and some sections of dense vegetation.
Soysambu Conservancy is home to over 600 Rothschild giraffes while Lake Elementaita is home to thousands of flamingoes.
Later, the rally moved to the sleeping warrior area. This section was marked as the rally’s longest test with an abrasive volcanic rock-type surface towards the end. The area was named ‘sleeping warrior’ because the hills surrounding look like a Maasai warrior lying down.
The spectator stages for this day’s series were accessible through Serena Gate to the conservancy. They were two areas located at the start and finish of the race. At the sleeping warrior section, the spectator stage was accessible from the Elementaita village through the conservancy quarry gate.
Day 4 Hells Gate series 27th June
The rally started back at the shakedown route of Loldia. This was followed by a series around Hell’s Gate which was believed to be the widest stage of the rally. It was characterized by a steep uphill climb on a loose surface and flat at the top of the hill. This was followed by a single run stage at the rocky Malewa.
The final stage was also known as the Wolf Power stage took place at Hells Gate. The spectator stage for this day’s series at Hell’s Gate overlooked the iconic Fischer’s Tower. These final power stage points were up for grabs for all WRC competitors even for those who retired their cars in the other day’s series.
The prize-giving podium was also done for the 5 fastest competitors next to the spectator area overlooking the Fischer Tower.
It was at the prizing giving ceremony that the President of Kenya announced that the safari rally will run each year till 2026. Hence if you missed this year’s event, you can plan to catch up on the next 5 years events and enjoy the spectacular race amid beautiful landscape and diverse wildlife.
Also read: Kenya as a safari destination
The @wrcsafarirally was something so special and unique! 🇰🇪🤩 Can’t wait to be back again in the future to enjoy more of these amazing stages and views – but for now I’m heading back home to refresh and recharge before the next event! 💪 pic.twitter.com/mHjn46xtpF
— Oliver Solberg (@OliverSolberg01) June 28, 2021
The @wrcsafarirally has been a fantastic event. It was not the result we were hoping for but we had a lot of fun in there and I want to thank the Kenyan people for their kindness and the organization for the top job done on this event! Can’t wait to come back! 🇰🇪🤩#WRC pic.twitter.com/FNsJbpPGwf
— Thierry Neuville (@thierryneuville) June 30, 2021
— Ott Tänak (@OttTanak) June 21, 2021
— WRC – FIA World Rally Championship (@OfficialWRC) July 2, 2021