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Thierry Neuville is out for revenge and wants to win Safari Rally in Nairobi

At the 2021 Safari Rally, the duo started the final day with a one-minute lead over their first pursuer. Victory was up for grabs, until the mechanics failed. A wheel broke off and the Belgian had to give up. “I went home with a bitter feeling,” Neuville recalls on the first edition of the rally. “A well deserved win was lost. This year I am out for revenge. I want to win.”

Nevertheless, Neuville also had a good feeling about the 2021 Safari. “It was an adventure. Both the location, the circumstances, the rides. With the fesh fesh, the downpours, the associated mud and the particularly rough and demanding roads, we were always faced with different challenges. The torrential rains stick with me the most. From one moment to the next it started to rain and the car became uncontrollable. The weather can play a major role again this year. I feel comfortable in the GC and look forward to the start of the rally.”

©  AFP

Everyone at the appointment

The Safari Rally will be held in Nairobi from Wednesday to Sunday, the sixth of thirteen rallies for the WRC 2022. A world championship so far dominated by Kalle Rovanperä (Toyota Yaris). The Finn won three rallies and has no less than 55 points more than first pursuer Thierry Neuville (Hyundai i20) in the World Cup standings.

The Safari Rally could be a tipping point for Neuville, who looked to be on his way to victory there last year but had to give up on the final day when a shock absorber broke. After five consecutive matches with technical problems, the Belgian needs a good result more than ever. If he doesn’t succeed in Kenya, he can already make a cross about his season.

In the Safari Rally, Neuville once again has to deal with additional competition. As in the Monte-Carlo and in Portugal, Ogier (Toyota Yaris) and Sébastien Loeb (Ford Puma) are also at the start in the Safari. Ogier won the Safari rally last year and is also eager for a good result this year. “The Safari was something special and different from what we were used to,” says Ogier. “Winning was the icing on the cake and it will be great to try and repeat that this year. We have seen that it can be a very tough rally. I think last year almost everyone got into trouble. So it is definitely a rally where you should never give up. This year, with the cars still so new, maybe we need to be even smarter.”

Sardinia was the most difficult rally of the year for World Cup leader Rovanperä (Toyota Yaris), but nevertheless he increased his lead in the World Cup standings over first pursuer Thierry Neuville. “I hope I don’t lose too much time in Kenya by being the first to hit the road. Last year I was unlucky at the end of the first day when I got stuck in the dust. Then it was a new rally, now we have a little more experience with those kinds of conditions.”

Besides Ogier and Rovanperä, Elfyn Evans and Katsuta Takamoto will also start with the Yaris. At Hyundai, Neuville and Ott Tänak, winner of the Rally of Sardinia, are the spearheads and they will be joined by Oliver Solberg. Ford hopes to achieve another top result with Sébastien Loeb, Craig Breen, Gus Greensmith and Adrien Fourmoux. With the Greek Jourdan Serderidis living in Belgium, assisted by the Belgian Frédéric Miclotte, M-Sport will start a fifth Puma, which is privately owned by Serderidis.

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