Pressemelding: Oliver Solberg vil alene til topps

Seier i løpet og økt ledelse i rally-VM er Oliver Solbergs mål i kommende helgs Safari Rally Kenya.

Den svensknorske Skoda-fabrikkføreren og kartleser Elliott Edmondson ankommer Naivasha i Kenya i delt ledelse i mesterskapets nest største klasse (WRC2). Franskmannen Yohan Rossel vant sesongens første VM-runde i Monte-Carlo og deler topplassen med Solberg.

Grundige forberedelser og intens innsats på hver eneste fartsprøve kreves for å sikre de ettertraktede 25 VM-poengene en seier gir.

– Safari Rally er et unikt løp på VM-kalenderen. Det blir voldsom forskjell å bytte ut snø i Sverige med ekstrem varme i Afrika. Hver fartsprøve kan oppleves som vidt forskjellige løp, sier Oliver Solberg.

Forrige VM-runde vant Solberg. På hjemmebane i Sverige skapte han også rallyhistorie med å bli første WRC2-fører som avsluttet en løpsdag (første dag) blant de tre beste sammenlagt i løpet.

VM-runden i Afrika er sesongens tredje av 13. Den kjøres over 19 fartsprøver og 368 kilometer fordelt på tre dager. 22-åringen har startet Safari Rally Kenya tre ganger. To av dem endte han topp ti sammenlagt i respektiv klasse.
Løpet innledes med shake down på onsdag morgen kl. 08.00 norsk tid. Startseremoni er torsdag formiddag, og første fartsetappe kjøres kl. 12.05 norsk tid på torsdag. Dette er eneste etappe torsdag, mens løpet fortsetter med SS2 på fredag morgen kl. 06.15 norsk tid.


Pressemelding fra Skoda Motorsport:

Safari Rally Kenya: Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 drivers
Oliver Solberg and Gus Greensmith fight for WRC2 victory

› Toksport WRT crew Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) targets second WRC2 win of the season at the FIA World Rally Championship’s third round.
› Teammates Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) have chosen the toughest WRC event to kick off their 2024 WRC2 campaign.
› Kajetan Kajetanowicz/Maciej Szczepaniak (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2), who won WRC2 on the African plains in 2023 and 2022, also start their season.

Mladá Boleslav, 26. March 2024 – After the Alpine roads of Rallye Monte-Carlo and the full-snow Swedish round, the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) heads to the rough gravel of East Africa: Safari Rally Kenya (28-31 March 2024) is next on the calendar for the WRC2 teams. Among the favourites are three Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 crews: Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (SWE/GBR) and Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (GBR/SWE) of Germany-based team Toksport WRT as well as team RaceSeven’s Kajetan Kajetanowicz/Maciej Szczepaniak (POL/POL), who won WRC2 at Safari Rally Kenya in 2022 and 2023.

He is only 22 years old, yet Oliver Solberg already is one of the most experienced competitors when it comes to Safari Rally Kenya. The Škoda Motorsport development driver tackles the championship’s only African round already for the fourth time. But luck was not always on his side. Last year, the young Swede and British co-driver Elliott Edmondson were fastest of the RC2 class on 17 of the event’s 19 stages. But after they broke the suspension of their Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo, they finished only second in the category. Solberg’s target for the upcoming edition of the Kenyan classic is clear: “The Safari Rally Kenya is the toughest in the calendar, the road conditions are often unpredictable. It’s all about a sensible speed, taking care about the car and avoiding mistakes. The Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 is the right car for this challenge.” After WRC2 victory at Rally Sweden, Oliver Solberg currently joins the overall lead of the category with Rally Monte-Carlo winner Yohan Rossel.

Competing for team Toksport WRT as well, Gus Greensmith has already two “Safaris” under his belt. Together with Swedish co-driver Jonas Andersson, the Briton starts his 2024 WRC2 campaign in Kenya. Greensmith has set himself high goals: “It’s fantastic to be with Škoda again. We had great success together in 2023. But, instead of finishing second in WRC2, my target is to be one place higher and win the title.“

Like Greensmith, Kajetan Kajetanowicz did not take part in Rallye Monte-Carlo and Rally Sweden, Safari Rally Kenya will be his first WRC2 event of the season. “Kajto” and navigator Maciej Szczepaniak from Poland, who share a Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 prepared by team RaceSeven, are a step ahead of Solberg/Edmondson and Greensmith/Andersson: They won WRC2 at Safari Rally Kenya already twice in 2022 and 2023. Last year, Kajetanowicz laid the foundation for the WRC2 Challenger title with this victory. “However, I return to Africa with a humble attitude – this is not a stroll in a park but an extremely unpredictable rally,“ he looks ahead.

Škoda is well represented in the 13 cars strong WRC2 field. In addition to Solberg, Kajetanowicz and Greensmith, five more drivers rely on the Rally2 car from Mladá Boleslav. Daniel Chwist from Poland and Miguel Díaz Aboitiz from Spain go head to head with locals Karan Patel, Samman Singh Vohra and Aakif Virani.

After being held in June for the last three years, Safari Rally Kenya returns to its traditional Easter date for this year’s edition. As a consequence, the weather could be even more unpredictable. Heavy rainfall can cause tricky water crossings, turning the normally dusty gravel stages easily into a proper mud bath. Therefore, the regulations for once allow the teams to equip their cars with so-called “snorkels”. The purpose-built intake on top of the windscreen makes sure, the engine is fed with air, not water.

Safari Rally Kenya features 19 special stages covering 367.76 kilometres. As an appetizer on Thursday (28 March), a short show stage will entertain the fans on the outskirts of the country’s capital Nairobi. Six stages follow on Friday, totalling 127.58 kilometres. Saturday features the longest leg of the rally with another six tests covering 160.96 kilometres. On Sunday, six stages remain. The podium ceremony awaits after the iconic “Hell’s Gate” stage at around 3h15 pm local time.

Did you know, that…

… Škoda factory crew Armin Schwarz/Manfred Hiemer (DEU/DEU) finished 2001 Safari Rally Kenya in third position overall – the best WRC result ever for the Škoda Octavia WRC?

… the event under the name of East African Safari Rally was one of the founding members of the World Rally Championship back in 1973? After initially being part of the calendar until 2002, the “Safari” returned in 2021 after a 19-year break.

… due to the rainy season hitting Kenya around Easter time, the stages in some years became so challenging, that less than ten cars finished the rally? There is one unwritten rule for the competitors: Expect the unexpected!

Standings WRC2 (after two events)
1 Yohan Rossel (FRA), Citroën, 25 points
2 Oliver Solberg (SWE), Škoda, 25 points
3 Sami Pajari (FIN), Toyota, 18 points
4 Pepe López (ESP), Škoda, 18 points

Standings WRC2 Challenger (after two events)
1 Pepe López (ESP), Škoda, 25 points
2 Sami Pajari (FIN), Toyota, 25 points
3 Georg Linnamäe (EST), Toyota, 18 points