There is no comparison – Mouton

This week’s World Rally Championship Safari Rally Kenya is described by as ‘19 gruelling special stages around Lakes Naivasha and Elmenteita covering 363.44km before Sunday afternoon’s finish in Naivasha’.While the weather and surface conditions may be similar to the classic events back in the 1970 and 80s, ask Michèle Mouton what she thinks about today’s rally compared with her debut in the African event in 1983 and she would say that there is no comparison.

We may look back at rallying in the 1980s and the Group B era that Mouton competed in as something quite special, and it was. But ask Michèle Mouton to compare and she is quite forthright in her conviction.

“I don’t like to sound like an old lady, the period was different. Rallying was endurance, a challenge for 1000 km day and night in any weather conditions, whereas today is completely different. It is a sprint.”

Michèle Mouton Audi Quattro – 1983 Safari Rally

She points out that the first stage of the 1983 Safari Rally, from Nairobi to Mombasa and return, nearly 1,600kms, was longer than the whole of this weekend’s four-day event.

“In endurance you have to save the car and yourself. What is better I am not sure. I liked my time.”

She also points out that we should not try and compare it with today’s hybrid World Rally Cars as times have changed and quite dramatically and, probably for the better.

“Yes, they are much easier to drive, this is progress and the evolution of the cars. The technical side is much easier, there is power steering and better suspension travel.”

Sébastien Loeb makes his return to the Safari Rally Kenya after his debut in 2002

This weekend sees the return of nine-time world champion, Sébastien Loeb in a Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1. He returns to Kenya 20 years after his one and only Safari Rally experience to date when he claimed fifth overall. While not the distance that Mouton competed over, the 2002 event was held over three-days totaling 1,010km.

Michèle Mouton is back in New Zealand as a FIA safety representative in preparation for the WRC Rally New Zealand.

The Repco Rally New Zealand is the seventh round of the 2022 World Rally Championship and takes place 29 September – 2 October 2022.

Benjamin Carrell is a freelance motorsport writer and currently edits He writes for a number of Kiwi drivers and motorsport clubs. That's when he's not working in his horticultural day-job or training for the next road or mtb cycle race!

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