It’s a warm-up day for the 2023 WRC Safari Rally Wednesday, and for those with time, Ndulele Conservancy is the place to be from 10am to catch a glimpse of the rally cars as they speed through the 5km Shakedown stage.
Ndulele Conservancy can be reached from the second left turn off Naivasha town on the Naivasha/Nakuru highway.
Today’s weather is expected to be dry, offering rally fans ideal conditions to watch the racing machines. The rally cars will do the official lap, then test their machines at rally speeds throughout the day.
Although no points are earned in this short section, a good performance is a morale booster to the crews and may give a pointer to the level of preparedness.
While the drivers were in the bush checking the road book in standard production 4wheel cars, their mechanics were fine tuning the machines which arrived in Naivasha over the weekend.
The Principal Secretary for Sports Peter Tum also visited the service bay of all drivers and inspected all facilities accompanied by the WRC Safari Rally CEO Phineas Kimathi.
This year's Safari is celebrating its 70th anniversary.
Tum expressed his satisfaction with the preparations and set aside time to check on the Team Kenya service crew that has young drivers McRae Kimathi, Hamza Anwar and Jeremiah Wahome.
The Safari Rally flag off has been shifted from its traditional venue of Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) to Uhuru Park which has been transformed into one open air market where ordinary Kenyans will exhibit their ware and talent under the Bottom-Up Transformation Economic Model.
KICC is currently hosting the Africa Energy Forum that started on Tuesday and will run until Friday.
After flagging off at Uhuru Park, the cars will head for the first competitive action at Kasarani Super Special Stage from 2pm.
Rally proper commences on Friday morning with Special Stage Two Loldia (19.17km), followed by Geothermal (13.12km), a stage over rocky hills with sweeping corners.
Competitors will then roar down the floor of the Rift Valley in Kedong where the notorious 'fesh fesh' volcanic soil that chokes engines and bogs down the speed machines which is (30.48km). These stages will be repeated twice for a total distance of 125.54km.
There is optimism in the Toyota camp, which is looking for a hat trick of wins with a four-car team assault led by world champion Kalle Rovanpera of Finland. The team also has 2021 champion Sebastien Ogier of France, Welshman Elfyn Evans and Japanese Takamoto Katsuta.
The 2019 world champion Ott Tanak of Estonia leads the three-car M-Sport Ford team alongside Pierre-Louis Loubet and privateer Jourdan Serderidis.
As usual, Hyundai will field a three-car team consisting of Belgian Thierry Neuville, Esapekka Lappi of Finland and Spaniard Dani Sordo.
Fifteen WRC2 cars will start but only 12 of them eligible to gain points. Drivers like Oliver Solberg of Sweden are competing just to build up experience.
Toksport will not have a presence in a WRC round for the first time this season, but Škoda will still be represented by the likes of Solberg and last year’s category winner Kajetan Kajetanowicz of Poland taking on the stages in an older Fabia Rally2 evo.