Toyota Gazoo Racing aim high on African adventure

25 March 2024

Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team are targeting further success on Safari Rally Kenya, the only African round in the 2024 FIA World Rally Championship which takes place from Thursday to Sunday this week.

Since returning to the WRC calendar in 2021, the Safari has restored its reputation as one of motorsport’s toughest challenges, one that TGR-WRT have risen to with three consecutive victories, extending its total tally of wins on the event to 11. The results include historic back-to-back 1-2-3-4 results in 2022 and 2023.

This year the team are fielding a strong line-up with three drivers who each have multiple Safari podium finishes to their name. Double world champion Kalle Rovanperä won the event in 2022 and finished a close second last year, while Elfyn Evans has the chance to add his name to the winners’ list after finishing second and third in the last two editions. Kenya has been a happy hunting ground for Takamoto Katsuta too, as the rally is where he achieved his first two WRC podium finishes in 2021 and 2022.

For 2024, the Safari returns to a more traditional early season date, having been held in June since its WRC comeback. This move could coincide with greater rainfall, with the potential to turn usually dry and dusty tracks into deep mud: conditions that have previously been responsible for some of the most memorable images in WRC history.

A change to the regulations means teams are this year permitted to fit Rally1 cars with snorkel systems – another notable feature of the Safari Rally in the past – to help them navigate deep water or soft sand and prevent engines being starved of air. For the first gravel rally of the season, TGR-WRT will also introduce an updated suspension system aimed at improving performance and reliability.

Modifications to the route will make this the longest Safari Rally of the modern WRC era with almost 230 competitive miles. Shakedown takes place on Wednesday before the rally starts from the Kenyan capital of Nairobi on Thursday lunchtime, with the action beginning with the nearby Kasarani super special stage. The rest of the event is based around the service park on the shores of Lake Naivasha, about 60 miles to the north-west. Two loops of three stages around the lake on Friday are followed by the longest day of the rally on Saturday. This takes crews further north to Lake Elmenteita for another trio of repeated tests, including an extended version of the Sleeping Warrior stage. The action returns to Lake Naivasha on Sunday for another two loops of three stages, with Hell’s Gate hosting the rally-ending Power Stage.

Team quotes

Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal): “The Safari Rally is an event we always look forward to. This year, it could bring a different challenge with the change of date: now it’s the rainy season in Kenya so there’s more risk of difficult conditions. When it rains there, the stages can get extremely slippery and it can be quite a challenge for the drivers. Patience is important, especially if the weather gets difficult. Being the smartest rather than the fastest can be the key. All of our drivers have shown what it takes to do well here and we would like to see another win. It’s difficult to make significant changes to the car for this one event, but we are introducing a general update for the suspension. It’s also great that we can fit snorkels to the cars, which will not only look quite cool but also help if there is more water on the road.”

Kalle Rovanperä (driver car 69): “It’s exciting to go back to Kenya. It’s been quite a good rally for me and for our team with some amazing results there. The atmosphere is also great. It’s going to be interesting to go there at this time of the year, during the rainy season. We expect that it could be much muddier. In previous years we have seen a bit of rain and it is always really tricky and slippery in those conditions. The biggest challenges will be to have reliable pace for the whole week, be consistent and stay out of trouble. Rally Sweden didn’t go as planned, so I’m hungry for a good result in Kenya.”

Elfyn Evans (driver car 33): “The Safari Rally is the most extreme event on the calendar so it’s always exciting. It’s more about the adventure than the pure thrill of driving but I’m looking forward to it as always. We’ve made a decent start to the year, taking good points from the first two rounds, but the Safari can be a bit of a lottery. We have to find that balance between pushing and looking after the car and see if we can be at the finish with good points, but that’s easier said than done. We’ve seen before that when it rains it can be very difficult, and we’re potentially looking at much more difficult conditions for a greater proportion of the rally and that could make things quite challenging.”

Takamoto Katsuta (driver car 18): “I’m of course excited and looking forward to the Safari, it’s a rally where Toyota has been really strong. But this time there could be more challenges in terms of the weather conditions. We have tried to prepare for all the conditions we could have, but you never know how it will actually be until you get there. On this kind of rally it’s always important to have a reliable car, which I think is our strongest point. I was disappointed after Sweden but I’ve been looking forward, preparing for this rally and to do my best to get a good result for the team. This is my next target and I’m feeling good.”


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Toyota Gazoo Racing aim high on African adventure


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