Hyundai Motorsport Preview – Safari Rally Kenya
Hyundai Motorsport embarks on an exciting adventure next week as the FIA World Rally Championship returns to Africa for the first time since 2002.
Safari Rally Kenya, a brand-new event for Hyundai Motorsport and its trio of crews, will be the sixth round of the 2021 season and set to be one of the most spectacular. Known for its stunning scenery, local wildlife and punishing roads, the event will offer a fresh challenge to the Alzenau-based squad.
Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe, who scored their fourth podium of the year in Sardinia last time out, will be out to add more trophies to their collection. Two crews who left the last round frustrated, Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja and Dani Sordo/Borja Rozada, will complete the Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team line-up in the Naivasha-based rally.
All three crews tested in the south of Portugal a few weeks’ ago in preparation for the Safari event, but their first taste of the rocky gravel roads will be in the recce. The immediate challenge will be to create detailed pace notes from scratch ahead of the 18-stage rally, which covers a competitive distance of 320km.
This year’s running will retain the character of the legendary Safari of old with unpredictability and rough rugged terrain set to put drivers, co-drivers and teams through an unprecedented test. For Hyundai Motorsport, whose Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC has set impressive pace in recent gravel events, the focus will be on scoring a representative result.
As the 2021 championship approaches its halfway point, the team will do everything in its power to reduce the 49-point gap to the manufacturers’ leaders - although knowing that the Safari Rally Kenya will be anything but predictable.
Team Principal Andrea Adamo said: “We head to Kenya knowing that we have to deliver. We also know that it will be far from a straightforward weekend. The Safari Rally is an iconic event in the World Rally Championship, and it will be a pleasure for Hyundai Motorsport to compete in our first WRC round in Africa. The stages are going to be demanding and unknown to our three crews, so there is a lot of preparation work to carry out before we even reach to the opening stage. We have seen the pace of our Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC on gravel recently, but we have not achieved the desired results. The objective is for a strong team result and to re-energise our championship campaign.”
Crew Notes: Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (#11 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Belgian crew scored fourth podium of 2021 season in Sardinia
Their nascent partnership will be put through a brand-new test in Africa
Neuville said: “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!”
Crew Notes: Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (#8 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Estonian crew have experienced two tough rallies in a row, retiring from the lead
Their first visit to Safari Rally Kenya offers a chance to reclaim lost ground in the title fight
Tänak said: “Safari Rally Kenya is a new event for me, and 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. I have seen some footage from previous rallies; it is one of those events where to finish first, first you have to finish. It seems to be a wild, wild place - and it will definitely be different to anything else on the calendar, something special. Hopefully everything will work out in our favour.”
Crew Notes: Dani Sordo/Borja Rozada (#6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Spanish pair tackle their third event as a WRC crew
Hoping to put the frustration of Sardinia firmly behind them in new event
Sordo said: “We left Sardinia feeling unfulfilled with our weekend because we knew we were capable of much more. The car was fast and showed its potential on tough gravel roads. Kenya will be another challenge, but 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, so let’s see how we get on. We’re hoping to score a good result for the team, who have been working non-stop to prepare for these events.”