NAIROBI, June 9 (Xinhua) -- World champion Sebastien Ogier believes tires will be vital in deciding the winner of the WRC Safari Rally on the tough Kenyan gravel roads.
Ogier, who won the WRC Sardinia Rally last weekend, is among the 58 international and local entries entered for the June 24-26 Safari Rally.
The Safari will return to the World Rally Championship calendar for the first time since 2002 with Ogier out to extend his championship lead on the championship table when he brings his talents to Kenya.
The Toyota Gazoo Racing French driver tops the WRC standings on 106 points, 11 ahead of British teammate Elfyn Evans.
"Our cars haven't been in these kinds of conditions for a long time; so, it will be an interesting adventure. What's more, our generation of drivers have also not competed in Africa, so we are overly excited for the new experience and challenge," Ogier told journalists and drivers during a virtual briefing.
The seven-time reigning World Champion added that they recently finished Sardinia in Italy and now are relaxing at home before they can recharge the batteries for Safari.
"I don't know much about the event in Kenya; but what I know for sure is that the conditions can really change within no time; and when heavens open it becomes even tougher as was witnessed during the ARC Equator Rally," Ogier said.
The Frenchman noted caution is needed in the Kenyan round of WRC will be a far cry from what drivers are used to as they will have to change their approach and drive cleverly in order to survive.
"From what I hear, the ground in Kenya has rocks in places, which can be tough on the tyres. It's no secret that we have issues with tyres at the moment," he said, noting that tires remain a key element for the teams on Safari if they really want to stay away from trouble.
He said the rocky stretches on the route course will definitely culminate into punctures if drivers are not very careful.
The Frenchman sealed his third win of the season during the weekend's Rally Italia Sardegna to add to his victories in Croatia and Monte Carlo where he celebrated a record-breaking eighth win in France's iconic round of WRC.
Ogier revealed that he has always relished new rallies and challenges.
"What I have liked in my 15-year rallying career is going to new stages. So, I'm overly excited to be coming to Kenya for the first time. It's really nice to see the amount of excitement among Kenyan fans have shown regarding the return of Safari to the WRC. WRC has been missing in Africa for 19 years now, and it's exciting to have it back in the series," he said. Enditem