Why your jalopy cannot compete in the Safari Rally

The Easter weekend is here and so is the 2024 World Safari Rally Championship in Naivasha, Nakuru.

For rally enthusiast​s, they might be wondering why they can’t just hop into their regular car or jalopies and join the competition.

Well, the difference between standard cars and Rally cars goes beyond just appearances.

For starters, rally cars are purpose-built machines, meticulously designed to tackle the rugged terrain and unpredictable weather conditions of rallying events.

According to Musa Locho, the Chief Scrutineer for WRC 2024, rally cars are divided into different classes and categories.

At the top of the list are Rally 1 cars, which are manufacturer-owned and not available for public purchase. These cars boast high specifications and are constructed using specialized materials to ensure top performance and safety.

“On the other hand, Rally 2 cars are more accessible to the public, with lower specifications and maintenance costs,”Locho explained to Nation.afrca.

“Rally 1 specifications are extremely high, making them expensive as they use special material to cut down on weight and ensure that the tensile strength of most of the components are of very high standards,” he says.

Despite their impressive speed capabilities, rally cars are actually speed-limited for safety reasons, ensuring that they don’t exceed 190 kilometers per hour.

Safety is paramount in rallying, with stringent regulations set by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA).

“As a fan when you see the rally cars when they are on the stage and they are doing a jump of up to four or five meters in the air and it lands and still rally without suspension you must know the car is very special and extremely expensive,” Locho explained.

He said that the rally cars are not mass produced hence their components are not ordinary making it expensive. For instance, one suspension for a wheel costs close to Sh1 million and one needs four and spares.

“The other components are built to a very high standard specifications using special materials like the brakes, exhaust considering how much fire it spits from the back. They are not mass production parts, they are specialized parts built with special equipment and special materials,” he noted

For newcomers interested in rallying, he suggests starting with more affordable options like Rally 5 cars, which offer a good balance of performance and affordability. These cars are perfect for learning the ropes before moving up to more powerful categories.

With the Safari Rally moving back to its more traditional Easter date during the rainy season, he said that the drivers have freedom to fit their cars with snorkel devices, which allows the car to breathe better in case it goes into a water splash.

“The drivers have been given the freedom to use it or leave, every team has their own strategy, there are many things they have to put into consideration, there is weight, when you put the snorkel the power slightly reduces because it breathes harder,” he noted.

“Do not be discouraged about the rally one and two, in Kenya we have few rally two and group N cars which are standard modified cars to rally, they are more affordable. New entrants are advised to use Rally five which are less powerful, more affordable but with good equipment to learn with.”

When it comes to tires, rally cars use specialized competition-only tires mandated by the FIA to maintain fairness. These tires are equipped with NRF ID codes for easy tracking and verification.

During the event, scrutineers are stationed along the routes to ensure that cars adhere to regulations and compete on a level playing field.

As a scrutineer before approving a car to participate in Safari Rally, they first check safety to ensure that it is safe for rally, the equipment used by drivers are safe and used in the correct manner as per the regulations and appendices of the FIA.

The scrutineers must weigh the car to ensure that it is within the specification of its weight – it should not exceed or even be under the weight. He revealed that people are being penalized for being 50grams short.

So, while you might not be able to jump into your everyday car for the Safari Rally, there’s still plenty of excitement to be had as spectators cheer on the competitors.

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