Thu 22 Jun 2023

Kenya rookies prepare for the unknown

Nothing prepares you for the first time you set for on Safari Rally Kenya. Nothing can. It’s a sensory overload, and then some. That is exactly what 2023 Rally1 debutants Esapekka Lappi and Pierre-Louis Loubet are experiencing right now.

Both Lappi and Loubet have been blown away by the stages and the stunning vistas which have greeted them across the last few days.

“I guess,” said Lappi, “it is more beautiful than what my expectation was. I guess the rain has made a difference to the colour of the nature: it’s really green and the scenery is amazing, and this together with the wildlife as well. It is a very exotic and unique experience for me.”

Loubet agreed, but added a first Safari brought more work than most WRC rounds.

The Frenchman said: “In terms of landscape and travelling it was nice and with regards to the roads, it looks very demanding. It is something very special here and very different to the rest of the championship. It is difficult but it is a proper rally also. 

“For sure there has been a lot of work on the videos to see the cuts and we have taken a lot of time with the video this time, much more than we do usually. When you come here for the first time it is a big job.”

For Lappi, the devil is in the unknown detail. 

The Hyundai star said: “For the stages, you get a good picture from the videos, really. The biggest challenge for me is in the open areas. There is long grass and you cannot really recognise the road."

Adding to Lappi's challenge was an unsatisfying Shakedown when his i20 N suffered a broken propshaft, limiting his acclimatisation period.

“You should do the pacenote, check the pacenote, check the corner angle and the cut at the same time, which is impossible. Then you have some cuts that are not so clear where to go, there is many options."

“On the long straights, there is a straight that is 1.6km and to find the braking point to a 90 junction can be tricky.

“It is a different kind of challenge and especially when you are here for the first time.” 


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