Rarely has a rally captured the imagination and created such a huge sense of expectation among the WRC’s stars as this week’s Safari Rally Kenya (24 - 27 June).
The Safari is returning to the FIA World Rally Championship for the first time since 2002 and none of the series’ big names has competed at the iconic African classic. Indeed, many have never set foot on the continent.
However, all have heard wide-eyed stories about the adventure – as Safari translates from Swahili – they are about to experience. From the blistering speed to the rugged rocky roads which slow cars to walking pace, from the exotic wildlife roaming the vast plains to the jaw-dropping landscape of the Great Rift Valley.
Video: Safari Rally Kenya most memorable moments
As they arrived at the Safari’s Naivasha base, here’s what they thought about the week ahead.
Ott Tänak: “Africa is a place where I’ve never been. I am looking forward to it, although I expect it to a bit of an adventure. It seems to be a wild, wild place - and it will definitely be different to anything else on the calendar, something special.”
Kalle Rovanperä: “It’s a new event for everybody and at the same time it’s also a really classic event from the past. The WRC was last there in the early 2000s when my father was competing, and I’ve seen all the old videos from then and he has been telling a lot of stories. Everything is going to be different but I’m excited for it.”
Adrien Fourmaux: “It will be a really big challenge and we know from the past how difficult this rally was. Okay, it’s a shorter event this time compared to the old WRC event, but it will still be hard and completely different to what we know. I can’t wait discover not only the rally but the humanity and the landscape.”
Dani Sordo: “It is going to be an incredible experience. Safari Rally is like nothing else, it’s an event that we have never contested, with really unique stage profiles. I like to drive in these sorts of conditions, it’s going to be a hard rally like in the past.”
Elfyn Evans: “I’ve seen a lot of the classic footage from the past and it all looks very spectacular. I am excited to go there and rally in a completely different environment.”
Thierry Neuville: “I think everyone is excited to have Safari Rally Kenya on the calendar. I have heard stories from drivers who have had the chance to go there in the past, who have described the adventure they lived at the time. It will be a different experience for us, as the rallying has evolved over time. I don’t know what is waiting for us, but I hope to come back with a big trophy. We’ll be seeing zebras, elephants and giraffes - it is going to be fun.”
• Full coverage from Safari Rally Kenya will be available on WRC+ All Live here, including every stage broadcast as it happens as well as key interviews, features and expert analysis from the service park.