Toyota to deploy suspension update at WRC Safari Rally Kenya

The Japanese brand has proven to be the team to beat in Kenya winning the previous three editions of the Safari Rally, known to be the most gruelling event on the WRC calendar.

Toyota outlined the speed and bulletproof reliability of its cars by scoring a 1-2-3-4 lock out in 2022 and 2023 on its way to back-to-back Rally1 constructors’ titles.

The reigning champion squad is showing no signs of resting on its laurels by introducing a suspension update in Kenya that is designed to improve performance and reliability.

Following a change in the FIA regulations, the team is also likely to fit snorkel devices to its cars to combat anticipated wetter conditions now the event has moved from its June berth to a rainy season March date.

The upgrades arrive after Toyota suffered defeats to Hyundai in this year’s opening two rounds in Monte Carlo and Sweden.

“It’s difficult to make significant changes to the car for this one event, but we are introducing a general update for the suspension,” said Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala. “It’s also great that we can fit snorkels to the cars, which will not only look quite cool but also help if there is more water on the road.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Team principal Toyota Gazoo Racing

Jari-Matti Latvala, Team principal Toyota Gazoo Racing

Photo by: Toyota Racing

Given the change of date and desperately wet and muddy conditions crews have experienced in this week’s recce, Latvala believes the smartest and not necessarily the fastest driver will triumph.

Toyota will field three GR Yaris entries for Elfyn Evans, Takamoto Katsuta and returning two-time world champion Kalle Rovanpera.

“The Safari Rally is an event we always look forward to. This year, it could bring a different challenge with the change of date: now it’s the rainy season in Kenya so there’s more risk of difficult conditions,” he added.

“When it rains there, the stages can get extremely slippery and it can be quite a challenge for the drivers to tackle. Patience is always very important, and especially if the weather gets difficult.

“Being the smartest can be the key, rather than being the fastest. All of our drivers have shown what it takes to do well there, and we would really like to see another Toyota win.”

Rovanpera and Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville shared the spoils in Wednesday’s shakedown, posting identical times on the 5.40km Loldia stage.

Sweden winner Esapekka Lappi was 0.3s shy of the pair, but ahead of Evans and Hyundai’s Ott Tanak. Adrien Fourmaux was sixth fastest for M-Sport while Katsuta, who suffered a couple of issues that have now been rectified, was seventh.

The top 10 was completed by M-Sport’s Gregoire Munster and WRC2 runners Gus Greensmith and Oliver Solberg.      

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