Karolis Kairys ir Safari Rally Kenya

Safari rally Kenya

A story about adventures in distant Kenya 🙂

Karolis Kairys

How and when was the idea to visit Kenya born?

It all started in 2019 when Deividas Jocius and Donatas Zvicevičius invited us to join their team at the Mexican WRC event. Then Marius and I performed the function of the gravel crew. We also accompanied the crew during the reece in the mountains, because anything can happen there, and getting help is very difficult and a lot of time can be lost. That year we did reece of all the WRC Mexico stages and wrote pacenotes. That’s hooked because it’s a really great job and a great workout. We then decided to do another workout in Mexico and take part in next year’s WRC Mexico event. It is a great pity that the 2021 Mexican WRC event was canceled, then we started thinking about Kenya. Since rallying is entertainment for us, we want to take part in top-level competitions abroad in an exotic country.

Panorama of Kenya through the Land Cruiser window

Tell us about the special stages

Since we are already familiar with the WRC special stages and pace, we decided to do a workout in Kenya and write a pacenotes of all the stages. This is a particularly challenging rally due to the narrow, stony speed sections. There were places that seemed impassable even at the time of the reece with the Toyota Land Cruiser. A real safari rally. The locals are accustomed to the abundance of dust, stony, or very loose places, but guests from Europe have certainly been surprised by such trails.

Tracks to run by World Rally stars

What was the atmosphere like during the competition?

The preparation for the competition was especially responsible. The WRC was last held in Kenya almost 20 years ago. The organizers went really far to keep things running smoothly. Much attention has been paid to COVID prevention, many testing, temperature checkpoints, and so on. All special stages were fenced and guarded by armed officers. The nature of Kenya surprised all the participants from abroad and during the reece, we met many world stars taking pictures with giraffes and zebras. There was a lot of attention from the organizers.

It is rare for the WRC stage to be guarded by armed soldiers

How did the locals welcome the World Rally Championship?

All of Kenya knew the WRC was going on. A lot of advertisements, announcements, and information have been broadcasted by the organizers. I think that the residents of Naivasha (where the main action took place and there was a service park) were not very satisfied, because all the traffic in Naivasha and its surroundings was stopped due to the guard. Ten kilometers of traffic jams erupted around Naivasha, with only sports cars, officials, or team members driving on the roads. The civilian cars were just stopped by police, which really caused a lot of inconvenience to residents.

Entrance to the service

What curiosities happened during your stay?

There were really a lot of misunderstandings. Different cultures, different people, traffic in the opposite direction… Everything had to be adapted.

We are going to reece and we are being stopped by the police. We immediately show the participant cards and say we are going to the rally. The policeman says: “All is well that you are going to the rally, but why against the traffic?” (We just drove from the habit on the right side of the road).

Also, many times the animals have blocked the road where you have to push the zebra with a bumper to drive further, or you approach such an off-road that we unite all the differentials, lowered gears, and move forward without realizing whether here is a stretch of the special stage or we have lost somewhere.

Water crossing, which can become quite a challenge if rain comes

Did you done the reece with the intention to return there as a full participant?

Yes, we did the reece with the intention to start as full participants next year. But when I saw the special stages I still need my thoughts to lie down and to understand if I want to do this rally. I think due to lack of experience it would be especially difficult to finish this rally. As we have seen, many world-class drivers have fallen, as it is practically impossible to beat the Safari Rally without mistakes. Surprises are waiting around every corner and not only hidden in the grass, but also in the loose sand.

Very few people in the rally world have opportunity to have this photo

What other rallies would you like to visit?

Plans are to visit one stage of the WRC each year. We plan to go to Chile next year. We received an offer from the M-Sport team to be weather reconnaissance and join the team. I think it would definitely be a good experience. If the Mexican WRC takes place next year, we will try to take part in it, we have already done a lot of work.

Lithuanian friendship and partnership with M-Sport

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Safari rally results

Photos – Karolis Kairys