It will be a full house at next month’s WRC Safari Rally with Frenchmen Sebastien Loeb and Sebastien Ogier alongside latest kid on the block, Finland’s Kalle Rovanpera, headlining the list of entries approved by the International Automobile Federation (FIA) on Friday night.
A total of 34 cars have passed the FIA test for the June 23-26 round of the World Rally Championship (WRC) with Kenya’s sole lady driver, Maxine Wahome, entering a Ford Fiesta Rally3 car, a technological upgrade from her traditional Subaru Impreza.
Toyota’s Rovenpera, 21, has so far won three of the opening four WRC round in Sweden (snow), Croatia (asphalt) and Portugal (gravel) and is touted as being on course to becoming the youngest ever world rally champion.
Semi-retired Loeb and Ogier are running a bit-part season and they couldn’t both resist the allure of the Safari.
Rovanpera heads the current WRC drivers’ standings on 46 points after the four rounds so far in Monaco, Sweden, Croatia and Portugal.
Locally, Maxine Wahome makes big news as she is given a Ford Fiesta in her second ever Safari Rally.
She will be the sole female driver among the 34 crews entered for the major rally.
“The excitement has not hit me yet. I am a calm person. Maybe I will feel it once I have tested the car and get set for the Safari Rally. It is a great moment,” Wahome told Nation Sport.
Wahome has done two events this year having finished in the Equator Rally but failing to complete the Uganda round of the African Rally Championship.
Fabrizia Pons, who navigated Michele Moulton at the height of her rallying career, will navigate Pierro Canobio of Kenya in a Naivas-sponsored Hyundai.
The Italian lady will be one of several female navigators.
Others include Loeb’s co-driver Isabelle Galmiche, Zambia’s Urshlla Gomes, who will partner with her husband and Africa points leader Leroy Gomes, and Burundi’s Sylvia Vindevogel who will co-drive Giancarlo Davite.
Kenya’s leading FIA young drivers Kimathi McRae, Hamza Anwar and Jeremy Wahome are also in the list driving their respective Ford Fiesta R3s.
Loeb will return to the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team for the Safari Rally, lining up a third head-to-head of the season between himself and compatriot, defending world champion Ogier.
Nikhil Sachania, the only physically handicapped driver in the competition, is also part of the list of entrants.
Kenya will stage the next round of the 2022 World Rally Championship around Naivasha from June 23 to 26 after next week’s Rally Italia.
The rally will start from the Kenyatta International Convention Centre before heading to the Kasarani Spectator Stage.
From here cars will head for Naivasha for the main, three-day action.
The full list of the Safari Rally entrants as approved by the FIA on Friday: