Hyundai Motorsport Preview: Round 6 – Safari Rally Kenya


  • Hyundai Motorsport heads to Africa for round 6 of the 2021 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), to content its first-ever Safari Rally Kenya.
  • The return of the event to the calendar for the first time since 2002 means that none of Hyundai Motorsport’s three crews are familiar with the rough, gravel roads
  • Thierry Neuville, Ott Tänak and Dani Sordo will line up in the three Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC cars, as the team aims to move on from recent misfortune.

Hyundai Motorsport embarks on an exciting adventure next week as the FIA World Rally Championship returns to Africa for the first time since 2002.

Safari Rally Kenya, a brand-new event for Hyundai Motorsport and its trio of crews, will be the sixth round of the 2021 season and set to be one of the most spectacular. Known for its stunning scenery, local wildlife and punishing roads, the event will offer a fresh challenge to the Alzenau-based squad.

Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe, who scored their fourth podium of the year in Sardinia last time out, will be out to add more trophies to their collection. Two crews who left the last round frustrated, Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja and Dani Sordo/Borja Rozada, will complete the Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team line-up in the Naivasha-based rally.

Hyundai Motorsport Preview: Round 6 – Safari Rally Kenya
2021 FIA World Rally Championship Round 05, Rally de Portugal 3-6 June 2021 Thierry Neuville Photographer: Austral © Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

All three crews tested in the south of Portugal a few weeks’ ago in preparation for the Safari event, but their first taste of the rocky gravel roads will be in the recce. The immediate challenge will be to create detailed pace notes from scratch ahead of the 18-stage rally, which covers a competitive distance of 320km.

This year’s running will retain the character of the legendary Safari of old with unpredictability and rough rugged terrain set to put drivers, co-drivers and teams through an unprecedented test. For Hyundai Motorsport, whose Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC has set impressive pace in recent gravel events, the focus will be on scoring a representative result.

As the 2021 championship approaches its halfway point, the team will do everything in its power to reduce the 49-point gap to the manufacturers’ leaders – although knowing that the Safari Rally Kenya will be anything but predictable.

Team Principal Andrea Adamo said: “We head to Kenya knowing that we have to deliver. We also know that it will be far from a straightforward weekend. The Safari Rally is an iconic event in the World Rally Championship, and it will be a pleasure for Hyundai Motorsport to compete in our first WRC round in Africa. The stages are going to be demanding and unknown to our three crews, so there is a lot of preparation work to carry out before we even reach to the opening stage. We have seen the pace of our Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC on gravel recently, but we have not achieved the desired results. The objective is for a strong team result and to re-energise our championship campaign.”

Hyundai Motorsport Preview: Round 6 – Safari Rally Kenya
2021 FIA World Rally Championship Round 05, Rally Italia Sardegna 03-06 june 2021 Shakedown, Portrait, Thierry Neuville Photographer: Dufour Fabien © Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Crew Notes: Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (#11 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

  • Belgian crew scored fourth podium of 2021 season in Sardinia
  • Their nascent partnership will be put through a brand-new test in Africa

Neuville said: “I think everyone is excited to have Safari Rally Kenya on the calendar. I have heard stories from drivers who have had the chance to go there in the past, who have described the adventure they lived at the time. It will be a different experience for us, as the rallying has evolved over time. I don’t know what is waiting for us, but I hope to come back with a big trophy. We’ll be seeing zebras, elephants and giraffes; it is going to be fun!”

Crew Notes: Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (#8 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

  • Estonian crew have experienced two tough rallies in a row, retiring from the lead
  • Their first visit to Safari Rally Kenya offers a chance to reclaim lost ground in the title fight

Tänak said: “Safari Rally Kenya is a new event for me, and Africa is a place where I’ve never been. I am looking forward to it, although I expect it to a bit of an adventure. I have seen some footage from previous rallies; it is one of those events where to finish first, first you have to finish. It seems to be a wild, wild place – and it will definitely be different to anything else on the calendar, something special. Hopefully everything will work out in our favour.”

Crew Notes: Dani Sordo/Borja Rozada (#6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

  • Spanish pair tackle their third event as a WRC crew
  • Hoping to put the frustration of Sardinia firmly behind them in new event

Sordo said: “We left Sardinia feeling unfulfilled with our weekend because we knew we were capable of much more. The car was fast and showed its potential on tough gravel roads. Kenya will be another challenge, but it is going to be an incredible experience. Safari Rally is like nothing else, it’s an event that we have never contested, with really unique stage profiles. I like to drive in these sorts of conditions; it’s going to be a hard rally like in the past, so let’s see how we get on. We’re hoping to score a good result for the team, who have been working non-stop to prepare for these events.”

Hyundai Motorsport Preview: Round 6 – Safari Rally Kenya
2021 FIA World Rally Championship Round 05, Rally de Portugal 3-6 June 2021 Ott Tanak Photographer: Austral © Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Weekend at a Glance

  • Based at the Kenya Wildlife Training Institute in Naivasha, Safari Rally Kenya covers 18 stages over a competitive distance of 320.19km
  • Starting with a Super Special at Kasarani on Thursday afternoon, the rally’s first full day will cover the southern shore of Lake Naivasha. Chui Lodge (13.34km), Kedong (at 32.68km, the longest stage of the rally), and Oserian (18.87km) will be run twice.
  • Saturday’s action moves north around Lake Elmenteita with the eponymous opening stage (14.67km) heading a trio of timed tests. Soysambu (20.33km) and Sleeping Warrior (31.04km) complete the loop, which will be run twice.
  • The final day covers Loldia (11.33km), Hells Gate (10.56km) and Malewa (9.71km), with the opening two stages run again to complete the rally.

Hyundai Motorsport WRC Crews’ Info

Hyundai i20 Couple WRC #11
Chassis number: 022
Thierry NeuvilleMartijn Wydaeghe
DOB16 June 19881 September 1992
First WRC event2009, Rally Catalunya2013, Rallye de France-alsace
WRC starts12223
WRC podiums474
WRC wins130
Safari Rally Kenya starts
Hyundai i20 Couple WRC #8
Chassis number: 027
Ott TänakMartin Järveoja
DOB15 October 198718 August 1987
First WRC event2009, Rally Portugal2013, Rally Jordan
WRC starts11788
WRC podiums3127
WRC wins1414
Safari Rally Kenya starts
Hyundai i20 Couple WRC #6
Chassis number: 026
Dani SordoBorja Rozada
DOB2 May 198316 September 1981
First WRC event2003, Rally Catalunya2013, Rally de Portugal
WRC starts17344
WRC podiums491
WRC wins30
Safari Rally Kenya starts

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