5 Interesting Things about the Safari Rally
5 Interesting Things about the Safari Rally

5 Interesting Things about the Safari Rally

August 21, 2023

The Safari & Dakar Rallies continue to be the top contenders for the toughest rally in the world, to date! Some argue that since the Dakar Rally is longer and more grueling, it makes it tougher. We half-heartedly agree with this and still hold onto the Safari Rally exemplifying the spirit of adventure in tough conditions. 

The Safari rally pushes man and machine to near breaking point, as the drivers and their navigators try as much as possible to survive the rough, rocky, dusty, and sometimes muddy punishment of rallying, without running into a tree, or helium-filled antelope. 

It’s no surprise really that after almost 19 years in absence, from the early 2000s to the end of the 2010s, the FIA saw it fit to reinstate the Safari Rally back to World Rally Championship (WRC) status and return to Kenya and see which team; man, and machine, can maneuver the rocky African plains. 

After the 2023 edition of the Safari Rally, which most of us agree was one of the best we have EVER seen (8-time WRC Champion Sebastian Ogier beating 2022 WRC Champion Kalle Rovanpera by just 6.7 sec was madness), let’s have a look at 5 interesting things you need to know about the Safari Rally: 



Toyota Gazoo Racing Driver Takamoto Katsuta & Navigator Daniel Barritt during the 2021 Safari Rally

It wasn’t always called The Safari Rally 

When the idea of driving across the African plains was first conceived in 1953, the rally was named the ‘East Africa Coronation Safari Rally’. This was to honor the late Queen Elizabeth II who had ascended the throne while she was vacationing in the Treetops Lodge, Nyeri in 1952. The name ran for over a decade, until 1974 when it was changed to the ‘East African Safari Rally’ (a version of this runs to this day, after every two years). Finally, in 1975, the ‘Safari Rally’ was coronated and has been since. 



70th Ceremonial Start of the 2023 Safari Rally

2023 was its 70th year of running 

That’s right! The rally has been consistently running from 1953 to 2023, except for 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak. It is worth noting, from 2003 to 2019, it was run as a national and not a WRC event. 













Late Hoonigan Racing Driver Ken Block during the 2022 East Africa Classic Safari

It previously was 5,000 km long! 

During the East African Safari Rally time, the race was close to 5,000km (about the width of the United States) long. It would take the crews 6 days to complete the rally. These were the glory years when the Safari Rally used to be run across East Africa: from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and back to Kenya. During these years, this was, without a doubt, the toughest rally in the world! 




5-time Safari Rally winner, the late great Shekhar Mehta

The record for most wins by a driver in the Safari is jointly held by Kenyans 

The Safari Rally has seen 41 winners over the past 70 years (33 winners as a WRC/International event, and 8 winners as an ARC event). During that time, 2 drivers, Carl Tundo and Shekhar Mehta, won the event 5 times as an ARC and WRC, respectively. Whether he was driving a Datsun 240Z or a Nissan Violet GT, Shekhar was unstoppable. To this day, no driver has beaten Shekhar’s record, four of those wins coming in a row. The only driver who comes close with 4 wins is Bjorn Waldegard from Sweden. 



Zebras enjoying the rally show during the 2021 Safari Rally

With wild animals, a passionate fanbase, changing weather and terrain, the Safari Rally has it all 

From rough, uneven roads and rock gardens, to river crossings, to fine dust called ‘Fesh Fesh’ and roaming wildlife, the Safari Rally throws everything that Kenya has to the drivers and their crew. With the fantastic atmosphere of passionate rally fans lined all over the roads, and spectator stages, the Safari Rally is second to none. It truly lives up to the title of the world’s toughest rally. 



Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta’s big roll during the 2023 Safari Rally

What else do you think we should know about the Safari Rally? Comment below. 

If you missed or want to re-live the 2023 edition of the Safari Rally, click on this link to go straight to our YouTube playlist on the  2023 WRC Safari Rally Rundown. 

If you are looking for a car that looks like the Toyota, Hyundai, or Ford that competes in the WRC, then visit the CARS360 website and choose your very own dream ‘rally’ car. Be it with fewer rally modifications, of course. 



By Antony Madilschy, CARS360 Content Creator 


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