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Are Rally1 cars too weak for Safari Rally?

ford damage

WRC teams don’t develop anymore specific version of their cars for Safari Rally Kenya due to test days restrictions. Rally1 cars seemed weaker compared to last ’90s and early 2000 Group A and WRC cars

Are Rally1 cars too fragile to face the Safari Rally? During the WRC African weekend, we saw numerous issues on almost all the cars from the official teams, giving the impression that Rally1 cars suffered more than expected in what was once the African marathon, although today it is not even comparable to the Safaris of the ’90s and 2000s.

neuville damage
Heavy damages on Neuville’s Hyundai after a puncture

With just over 360 km of special stages compared to over 1000 twenty years ago, it should be noted that back then, they were competitive sections rather than proper special stages, but the pace was still very high, and the challenges on the route were perhaps greater than today’s. From encounters with wildlife to traversing populated areas, uncertainties along African tracks were never lacking.

However, despite the toughness of the race, the cars seemed to be more resilient compared to today. Apart from the numerous punctures (perhaps due to the lack of a specifically developed and adequately reinforced tire for a single race for cost reasons), no team was exempt from more or less serious damage. Several situations stemmed from unexpected events or minor driving errors, but with older generation WRC or Group A cars, in similar unexpected situations, the damages were lesser. Those cars were undoubtedly sturdier, thanks also to specific dedicated development which would not be possible under current rules.

old safari
Old WRC specific Safari “Panzer” – 1999 Ford Focus

It should be noted, to the detriment of today’s teams, that in the past, tests were unrestricted and, only for the Safari, test sessions lasting weeks or even months were organized in Africa. All this was done to develop a specific car solely for the prestigious Kenyan marathon. Today, it’s no longer the case; times have changed and, probably, teams are considering a balance between the risk of running in a single race compared to the very high costs of developing solutions for just one weekend of a longer championship than in the past, where the individual race has much less impact in terms of scoring.

Times have simply changed, and although reduced and shortened, the Safari Rally retains a special charm capable of keeping fans glued to the screen to follow their favorite cars amidst dust, mud, wild animals, and incredible landscapes.