Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Hyundai Motorsport Aims for Victory at Challenging Safari Rally Kenya

Hyundai Motorsport is gearing up for the upcoming Safari Rally Kenya, the seventh round of the 2023 FIA World Rally Championship. With a strong performance in recent events, the team hopes to conquer the challenging and unpredictable terrain of Kenya’s gravel stages. Led by drivers Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe, Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm, and Dani Sordo/Cándido Carrera, Hyundai Motorsport is determined to close the gap in both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ standings.

Safari Rally Kenya presents a unique set of challenges to the competitors. The gravel surface, consisting of fesh-fesh sand and treacherous rocky sections, demands a cautious approach and adaptability to the changing speeds and conditions.

Martijn Wydaeghe, co-driver for Thierry Neuville, emphasized the demanding nature of Safari Rally Kenya: The greatest challenge in Kenya is that you can prepare as much as you want, but you will still have surprises. The road book looks exactly the same as last year, but we already know that the stages will be different because of the ever-changing weather conditions.

Credit: Hyundai Motorsport

The profile is unlike anything else; the mix of the fesh-fesh and the rocky terrain creates a completely different rally. This is why it’s important to adapt to the changing speeds – the surface has such varied characteristics. The most challenging stage is probably Sleeping Warrior as it’s the longest, making it harder to get into a consistent rhythm.

Hyundai Motorsport Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul expressed his enthusiasm for the event, stating, “We are excited for this one; we want to have a Safari Rally Kenya to remember. The podium is the minimum target for us.” Abiteboul acknowledged the progress made by the team in recent races and emphasized the need to maintain their momentum and focus on securing valuable points in both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships.

Thierry Neuville, aiming for his first Safari Rally Kenya podium finish, shared his excitement for the adventure that awaits. Kenya is an adventure. It is a tough event and very challenging because we are driving through the middle of the parks and the countryside, where there are some very rough sections with sand and fesh-fesh. Each stage has its own unique characteristics, but the changing conditions and different surfaces is what we enjoy so much about this rally.

Neuville expressed his determination to clinch victory and acknowledged the unpredictable nature of the rally, emphasizing the importance of staying focused until the end.

“The goal is definitely to win, so we will keep fighting all the way through; as we know very well, the rally isn’t over until it’s over. We saw that two years ago when we were leading, and then unfortunately had an issue just before the end. Hopefully, we get the victory this year.

Credit: Hyundai Motorsport

Esapekka Lappi, who has achieved a hat-trick of podium finishes in 2023 so far, acknowledged the unique preparation required for Safari Rally Kenya. “It’s harder work than normal to prepare for Safari Rally Kenya. I’ve watched as many onboards as possible to understand how you should drive on each of the specific areas.” Lappi emphasized the team’s goal of securing a podium finish at every rally and highlighted the potential challenges posed by the presence of zebras on the roads.

Dani Sordo, looking to bounce back from a disappointing performance in Sardinia, expressed his eagerness to conquer the challenges of Safari Rally Kenya. ““Safari Rally Kenya is a nice experience; I have only done it once before, but the stages are quite different – especially with the animals around and the fesh-fesh sand, which we know can be tricky.

The weather can also play a big part, as the stages can become slippery if it rains. The goal for the weekend is to fight for the podium and hopefully for another team victory. Kenya will not just be about the speed, but also getting through the challenges that lie ahead.”

Safari Rally Kenya, starting on 22 June, will feature a variety of stages, including the longest stage, Sleeping Warrior, providing a total competitive distance of 355.92km.

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