The Safari Rally is the eighth round out of 14 in the 2002 FIA World Rally Championship, and the fifth round out of eight in the 2002 FIA Production Car World Rally Championship.

The Inmarsat Safari Rally these days is a condensed version of the former round-Kenya open road event, centred at a single Service Park near the (inactive!) Suswa volcano northwest of Nairobi, run entirely in daylight.

At 2,431km it is the longest qualifying event in the championship and by climbing up to 2,850m it is also the highest. There are special rules for this event, including a four day reconnaissance period and much longer high speed sections (individual sections are up to twice as long, three times longer in total). Cars can carry two spare wheels, additional lights and 'snorkel' induction systems. Although bigger fuel tanks are allowed, several teams will use normal European specification tanks, since the constantly high speeds on competitive sections lead to reduced fuel consumption. Half the high speed sections are open to other road users. There will be a minimum of three minutes gap between all competitors. This event is considered by teams to be the final 'rough gravel' rally of the season. Only 32km of the high speed sections are completely new but a considerable amount of the route has not been used in recent years and is new to most competitors. 50 entries have been received.

Novelties this year include the rally headquarters and the night halts have moved back to Safari Park Hotel, on the north east outskirts of Nairobi. The scrutineering, the start and the finish are at Kenyatta International Conference Centre in downtown Nairobi...The rally Shakedown will also be at Suswa, held after the ceremonial start of the event. Cars can then be transported from the start to the Shakedown. The 'real' start will be at 0600 on Friday...There is a new category of high speed section on this event. Not only are there the
traditional Safari Rally competitive and liaison sections, but four of the 12 competitive sections fall into a third category, 'closed road sections'...There will only be four individual high speed section venues. Each is used three times, twice in one direction and once in the other...This is the first time that all competitive sections have been run in both directions on a gravel World Rally...

For the first time the whole Safari Rally Rally route is to be run in the Southern hemisphere, also for the first time none of the route is run on the coast side of Nairobi...There is a new sponsor, Inmarsat, a commercial partner of ISC.

News from the Manufacturers' teams:

Championship leaders after Greece with 77 points and consisting of Richard Burns (car no.
1), Marcus Gronholm (car no. 2) and Harri Rovanpera (car no. 3). And not nominated for
championship points is a fourth entry, for Gilles Panizzi (car no. 23). Technical chief Michel Nandan gives his take: ''We are concentrating on gaining maximum durability, even at the
expense of performance. We have no idea how damaging will be the roads when they are being run three times." The cars have appeared previously on different events: Burns drives Gronholm's Network Q winning car.

2nd place with 55 points and consisting of Carlos Sainz (car no. 4), Colin McRae (car no. 5) andMarkko Martin (car no. 6). M-Sport chief engineer Christian Loriaux: ''Statistically more works cars retire on this event than elsewhere, which means we have to place the maximum effort on achieving reliability!" New car for McRae, and a previously unrallied ex-test car for Martin. New, specially strengthened clutches are being used.

Currently lying in in 3rd place with 35 points. Tommi Makinen (car no. 10) and Petter
Solberg (car no. 11) are joined by no third entry on this event. Team director David Lapworth: ''The challenge of the event is judging the pace, to reduce unnecessary risk of damage. The rally is a compromise between risk and performance." The team expect to remove roof scoops altogether, to prevent ingress of dust and sand and will be using the usual European size fuel tanks. Ex-Cyprus cars for both drivers.

4th place in the championship with a mere 6 points. Francois Delecour (car no. 7) and Alister
McRae (car no. 8) are not joined by a third entry on this event. The team's huge experience of this event (five previous wins) will help offset the lack of experience of their drivers (Delecour one previous entry, McRae none). Delecour is looking forward to some cranial competition: ''This must be a very open and level event. It remains unique in being an event you can win by using your brains." The team's cars were last used on the asphalt Catalunya Rally. This is planned to be the final outing for the first version Lancer Evolution World Rally Car.

In 5th with 5 points. Kenneth Eriksson (car no. 14), Toni Gardemeister (car no.15) and Roman Kresta (car no. 16). One year on from the team's best world rally performance yet, in which they led the event at the start and finished on the podium, this will be the last rally planned for the current version Octavia, which has been active for two years. Larger fuel tanks than usual.

6th place in the championship with 4 points. Armin Schwarz (car no. 17), Freddy Loix (car no. 18) and old hand Juha Kankkunen (car no. 19). One day of testing lost because of the late arrival of the boat from Greece. Senior engineer Graeme Garvin: ''We are entering new territory. We have not contested the Safari before, so our cars have never been driven competitively on such long sections. We are really happy to have Juha's huge experience of
this event to help us." They will be using a mixture of ex-Argentina and Cyprus cars.

Thomas Radstrom (car no. 20) and Sebastien Loeb (car no. 21). This is the Xsara World Rally Car team's first event outside Europe. Last year they covered 3,000km testing in Kenya, earlier this year at least 1,000km. Disappointing results in Greece have been put down to pre-event testing at unrepresentative locations, and the absence of their gravel road specialist driver Radstrom from one test.