World champion Frenchman Sebastien Ogier is among 58 drivers entered for World Rally Championship (WRC) Safari Rally Kenya, marking its return to the WRC calendar for the first time in 19 years.
According to an entry list released by world governing body FIA on Friday, Ogier, who won the world title last year as part of the WRC Toyota Yaris works team, will feature in an event that will see 24 foreign drivers and 34 locals compete in the rally from June 24 to 27 in Naivasha, 91km west of the capital Nairobi.
All the three factory teams in Rally1 cars, Toyota, Ford and Hyundai, will field all their top drivers, who will be complemented by the entry of 11 of their second-tier Rally2 cars.
“It is a fantastic entry we have. These are unknown drivers locally coming to an unknown territory. We have had a challenge with the weather recently and will return to the route on Saturday for more inspection,” deputy clerk-of-course, Nazir Yakub, said in a statement released on Friday.
Finland’s Kalle Rovanpera, the 20-year-old son of former WRC champion Harri Rovanpera and a teammate of Ogier, will be the youngest driver on show with 2021 WRC Portugal Rally winner Elfyn Evans and Takamoto Katsuta completing the WRC Toyota Yaris factory team line-up.
Sobieslow Zasada, who finished second in the 1972 Safari Rally when it was billed as the “toughest rally in the world”, is the eldest entrant at 91 years and will be returning to the event for the first time since 1972 in a Ford Fiesta ST Rally3 car.
The star-studded rally will also witness the talents of 2019 WRC champion Ott Tanak, Dani Sordo, Thierry Neuville and Pierre-Louis Loubet will lead the charge for the Hyundai Mobis WRC team.
Local interest will be headlined by six-time Safari winner and ARC Equator Rally champion, Carl Tundo in a VW Polo Rally2 with Onkar Rai and Tejveer Rai the other top Kenyan drivers in the German carmaker’s stable.
National champion Baldev Chager (Mitsubishi EVO X), Ravi Soni (Mitsubishi Evo X) and McRae Kimathi (Subaru Impreza N12), who is the son of former driver and current Safari Rally chairman Phineas Kimathi are other domestic drivers who will be on show.
According to the organizers, seeding for the starting positions will be made later.