Safari Rally Kenya: Day 1 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing launches into Safari action in Nairobi

2024.3.28 (Thu)

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team has begun its search for more success on the Safari Rally in Kenya as the event got off to a spectacular start in the capital city Nairobi.

Car 69 (Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen)
Car 69 (Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen)

The action on African soil began already on Wednesday with shakedown and an important opportunity to check car settings, as pre-event testing is prohibited outside of Europe. As well as an updated suspension package, the GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID this week features a snorkel system – a distinctive feature on Safari-specification cars in the past. Kalle Rovanperä recorded the fastest time over the shakedown, which took place near the service park in Naivasha.

As usual, the rally began with a start ceremony in the centre of Nairobi on Thursday lunchtime, with crews then driving to the nearby Kasarani super special.

Competition was close around the side-by-side course, Rovanperä setting the third-quickest time, 0.8 seconds from the lead. Takamoto Katsuta was just one place and 0.1s further back, with Elfyn Evans sixth and within 1.7s of the lead with three days of rallying to come.

Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)

“Our team really enjoys being here in Kenya and taking on the Safari Rally. We’ve seen that spirit in the way that everybody has been working hard to get everything ready despite some challenges with logistics, and we’re looking forward to the rest of the weekend. I was watching the first stage and it’s a nice spectacular one to start this rally with some fast corners and a good number of people spectating. Our cars looked good, I could see our drivers were pushing and the times were very close. To be within two seconds of the lead with all three cars is good, and this is a rally that’s normally won by bigger margins. In shakedown yesterday I got to ride with Elfyn and it was an amazing feeling, and great to see how well our car was handling the bumps.”

Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)
“The Safari is a special rally and it’s always an exciting feeling at the start of the event: there were a lot of fans in Nairobi making a really nice atmosphere. This first super special can be tricky, and for us it was so slippery with no line to follow after the smaller cars, but I tried to enjoy it. This event is always a compromise between trying to be quick and keeping it safe, but I think we are in a good place. We can’t really predict what’s going to happen, and we’ll just try and do our best to get another good result here for the team.”

Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
“It’s great to be back here in Kenya and to get the rally underway. The side-by-side super special is a good stage, but there were a few tricky sections with standing water so it was a challenging start. There’s a big challenge ahead of everybody this weekend. The conditions are maybe a little bit rougher than we’ve seen previously here, especially in some of the stages. The weather can also change things quite a lot and we know that when it rains the grip can disappear very quickly. Shakedown yesterday was an important chance to try a few things and the feeling was quite positive.”

Takamoto Katsuta (Driver car 18)
“This is a special rally for me and it has been a great one for Toyota, and there is so much support here for our team. This first stage is a nice super special: two cars at the same time is exciting for the fans and us drivers too. The conditions were more difficult after the rain, but we did OK. Generally the stages are quite rough compared to last year and the weather conditions could be a big challenge. It will be a demanding rally and I just need to find a comfortable pace and try to avoid any problems. I believe we can have a good weekend.”

End of day one (Thursday):
1 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) 3m19.9s
2 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +0.1s
3 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +0.8s
4 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +0.9s
5 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +1.5s
6 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +1.7s
7 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +2.2s
8 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +6.6s
9 Grégoire Munster/Louis Louka (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +8.6s
10 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +9.4s
(Results as of 17:00 on Thursday, for the latest results please visit

What's next?
Friday is the first full day of the rally and takes place around Lake Naivasha, about 100 kilometres north-west of Nairobi. An anti-clockwise loop of three stages around the lake will be run twice either side of mid-day service, totalling 127.58 competitive kilometres.

Kalle Rovanperä
Kalle Rovanperä
Car 33 (Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin)
Car 33 (Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin)
Car 18 (Takamoto Katsuta, Aaron Johnston)
Car 18 (Takamoto Katsuta, Aaron Johnston)

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