The Safari Rally, which hosts the third round of the WRC season this week, is renowned as a car-breaker thanks to its unique blend of rough terrain and changeable weather.

It has proven to be a bogey event for Hyundai since the event returned to the calendar in 2021, with its only podium finish to date achieved by Ott Tanak finishing third three years ago. The last two editions have seen Toyota score a 1-2-3-4 lock-out while Hyundai battled mechanical issues.

Last year, Neuville suffered a suspension failure which ended hopes of victory as the Belgian recovered to finish eighth on the road, before officials excluded him from the event following a breach of recce rules.

Teammate Esapekka Lappi was in podium contention but a trio of propshaft failures curtailed his rally, while Dani Sordo finished a distant fifth.

Hyundai has since addressed its reliability issues through a series of upgrades in the off-season, and has made a strong start to 2024, winning the opening two events in Monte-Carlo (Neuville) and Sweden (Lappi).

Championship leader Neuville believes Hyundai will head to Africa stronger than in previous years.

“I think so,” Neuville told when asked if he thought Hyundai had resolved its reliability issues. “We have constantly improved, however Kenya has been a tough event for us and for all of Hyundai over the past years, so hopefully the fourth time we go there we should be reliable enough.”

Thierry Neuville, Hyundai World Rally Team

Photo by: Vincent Thuillier / Hyundai Motorsport

Neuville said Hyundai’s pre-event test in Spain was productive, adding: “It wasn’t the greatest surface and conditions but at least we were running the car at altitude, so it was interesting to also work on those parameters of the car.”

This year’s Safari Rally reverts to a more traditional Easter date instead of the June berth that the event held since its return in 2021.

As a result, the rally will take place during Kenya’s rainy season, which increases the likelihood of changeable weather. To help combat the possibility of heavy rain, Rally1 cars will be able to fit snorkel devices following a change in regulations.

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When asked about the possibility of extreme weather, Neuville responded: “We expect it to be hot but wet. It could be less rough, but it could be more of a lottery due to the weather. If there is a lot of rain definitely, [snorkels will be crucial].”

Hyundai team principal Cyril Abiteboul added: “Safari Rally Kenya is a historically challenging event for us. The unique conditions increase the potential for cars to succumb to technical issues caused by the surroundings, meaning we have to focus on being robust and reliable first and foremost.

“We have made a strong start to the season so we must go to Kenya with belief in ourselves. It is the first gravel event of the 2024 season, making it somewhat a testing ground for the 2024 iteration of our car.

“Our performance last year showed promise, so we are hoping to take it one step further and leave Kenya with a podium finish as a minimum.”


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