Along with the Monte Carlo Rally, the Safari is one of the World Rally Championship's true classics. And even though the African round has evolved in recent years in line with recent changes within the sport, it still boasts many of the ingredients that have long made it such a unique event.

It is the only round that takes place on roads that are not totally closed to ordinary traffic, while its route - now focused on the Kenyan capital Nairobi - continues to switch relentlessly from high speed portions to sections that must be covered at a snail's pace. At the same time, the splendour and wildness of the country's natural environment most definitely contribute to making this a one-off experience and the only chance WRC regulars get to compete on the African continent.

The cars built for the Safari Rally reflect the event's special flavour. A third fuel-tank is added for greater autonomy over the longer competitive sections and a second spare wheel is no luxury in case of punctures, while the engine air intake is located at roof height to improve the cars' water-crossing capacities. In heavy rain, fords can effectively become extremely deep. At the same time, although the traditional backdrop to the Safari is dust and suffocating heat, showers can turn the laterite tracks into awesome skating rinks in an instant.

The Peugeot 206 WRC has only competed on this event on one previous occasion, in February 2000. Given the specific difficulties associated with the African outing, its experience of the terrain is therefore comparatively very limited. In August, the calendar returns to what can be considered to be the more traditional qualifying rounds of the season, beginning with Rally Finland, an event won by Peugeot last year. But that's not a claim the French team make in the case of the Safari.

"This year, for the first time, we will have a car that has been a bit better developed for this highly specific rally," says Peugeot Sport Director Corrado Provera. "We have nominated our two Finnish drivers as eligible to score Manufacturers' points, while Didier Auriol will be given a free rein to attack as he sees fit on a terrain where his experience matches his talent."

"To prepare as much as possible for the difficulties of the Safari Rally, we carried out two test sessions on-site," adds Peugeot Sport Rallies boss Jean-Pierre Nicolas. "We have made a major effort, although we have not covered sufficient kilometres, so we do not want to be over-ambitious. Our drivers will have to adjust their pace accordingly and the objective is to reach the finish."

Peugeot has nominated Finns Marcus Gr?nholm and Harri Rovanper? as eligible to score points towards the Manufacturers' championship. Harri Rovanpera has a background as a mechanic, an attribute that could prove valuable on the Safari. He also knows the event well after finishing 8th - and 1st in the 2-litre, 2-wheel drive category - in 1998 and 6th in 1999. Meanwhile, Didier Auriol finished a fine 3rd in Kenya last year. His experience of the African round also promises to be an asset for the Peugeot Sport squad.