The Safari Rally in Kenya is arguably the most grueling round of the FIA World Rally Championship schedule. For almost 70 years, Kenya’s rough stages have challenged the best rally teams in the world and put their cars to the ultimate test. Understandably, when mistakes are made, drivers and co-drivers expect to receive assistance to escape any dangerous situation they might find themselves in. It didn’t turn out that way for M-Sport Ford’s Gus Greensmith.
M-Sport had a Safari Rally from hell. Nine-time world champion Sébastien Loeb had won Friday’s first stage, but a small fire in his hybrid Ford Puma’s engine bay forced him to rely solely on electric power to return to the service park after that morning’s stages. Loeb ran out of energy three miles short of the service park.
Things weren’t much better for Loeb’s M-Sport teammates. Gus Greensmith had one of his tires delaminate during the fourth stage. Adrien Fourmaux retired because of a rear differential failure on the fifth stage. A steering failure forced Craig Breen to retire during the seventh stage. That was all on Friday.
During Saturday’s opening stage, Gus Greensmith rolled his Puma with the Rally1 car coming to rest on its side. Greensmith and his co-driver Jonas Andersson were trapped inside as the upward-facing door was too damaged to open. The pair waited for minutes as no one came to their aid. Greensmith decided the best course of action was to kick out the windshield. After crawling out of his stranded car, he exclaimed in frustration to onlookers, “You had one fucking job!”
Video of the incident shows that local law enforcement and stage marshals prevented spectators from helping Greensmith and Andersson. This confusion was seemingly caused by a misunderstanding of the new safety guidelines introduced alongside the new hybrid Rally1 technical regulations. Electrocution is possible when touching a damaged hybrid rally car. Course officials are advised not to let anyone touch the car unless a green light is shown on the windshield and side windows. Greensmith has stated that his Puma had the green light.
Toyota swept this year’s Safari Rally with a 1-2-3-4 finish, led by Kalle Rovanperä. Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville was the first non-Toyota finisher, over eight minutes behind fourth-placed Sébastien Ogier and almost eleven minutes behind Rovanperä.