Kerry-Déise combination come into the event in Kenya on a high after finishing in second in the last round in Italy
Craig Breen and Paul Nagle are set for one of the most iconic rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship the Safari Rally Kenya, round six of the 2022 WRC calendar, this weekend.
The Naivsaha-based event will take place over 19 stages in vast scrubland that is usually home to giraffes, zebras and leopards.
An unusual sandy road surface – called fesh-fesh locally – can turn to a quagmire after just the smallest drop of rain, thankfully not much of the wet stuff is forecast for the week ahead, but that is only part of the challenge facing the Waterford/Kerry crew.
The rally starts on Thursday morning with a ceremonial start in Nairobi city centre before a short spectator-friendly test just north of the city. The weekend action is in the bush, on roads and trails that border Lake Naivasha.
Stage names like Sleeping Warrior and Hell’s Gate give an idea of the difficult task that lays ahead.
One stage even runs through a geothermal hot-spring park- Kenya is the leading producer of geothermal energy on the African continent and eighth in the world and by 2030 the country aims to generate 51% of its total energy capacity in this way.
It has been another tight turnaround for the M-Sport Ford Rally team, buoyed by its recent success and a strong showing in Sardinia for Rally d’Italia, where Craig Breen claimed a well-earned second position just two weeks ago.
Breen and Nagle are fourth in the WRC standings after the Italian event and will benefit from a good road position on the Safari Rally.
The 2022 Safari Rally will compete across a bumper 362.62 kilometres, which could see the total time of the rally exceed three and-a-half hours.
Last year taught everyone that despite it being a condensed version of the original Safari Rally, the stages themselves hadn’t been watered down in the slightest. The event was so demanding, that of the 56 entrants, only 11 crews completed every stage of the rally and only 26 finished the event.
“I am very much looking forward to Kenya and discovering what seems to be quite the adventure. For me, I’ll be discovering a new continent, I have never been to Africa before, so I will be soaking it all up,” said Breen.
“The Safari Rally is an incredibly prestigious and historic event that I’ve watched many times on the TV as a kid, so I cannot wait to see what it is all about.
"It will be a huge challenge for all the crews, but we have prepared well. Sardinia went well, and we want to try to carry that rhythm forward so we will try to bring home another good result this week.”