Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has reaffirmed the government’s support for the Safari Rally’s bid to make a comeback to the prestigious World Rally Championship.
And to show the government’s support for the drive, the president on Friday presented a cheque of Ksh440 million ($4 million) towards the World Rally Championship Safari Project to the project’s chief executive Phineas Kimathi.
This was before President Kenyatta flagged off cars competing in this year’s Safari, which is running as a candidate event for the World Rally Championship, at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani in the capital Nairobi.
The President said the Safari Rally is held in high esteem in Kenya and is very much part of the national psyche.
“With the first Safari Rally having taken place in our country in 1953, rallying has deep roots in Kenya’s national psyche,” Uhuru said.
“Many generations of Kenyans were raised against the background of impressive rally races, criss-crossing our nation, and looking up to motoring legends who distinguished themselves due to their skill, daring and jaw-dropping feats of world class rallying,” the President added.
“My administration is committed to supporting rallying in Kenya. And as so many Kenyans, I am confident that not only will this Safari Rally be a full series event, but also the Kenyan flag will feature on the winning podium in a number of events.”
Appeal for support
The President appealed to corporates to support the bid to have the Safari back on the global roster.
“The government, through the Ministry of Sports, is eager to lend whatever support that the industry and sponsors may require,” he said.
The President acknowledged the support from the International Automobile Federation (FIA) whose president Jean Todt, who is also a United Nations special envoy on road safety, visited State House, Nairobi, in 2015.
“The logistical and technical support that we have received from the FIA has not only made this event possible, but also deepened Kenya’s capacity to deliver world class rallying experiences,” the president said.
“We are committed to meeting all International Automobile Federation regulations, standards and requirements so that Kenya may once again feature at the apex of global rallying,” he assured.
Sports Cabinet secretary Amina Mohammed, the World Rally Championship Safari Project chief executive Phineas Kimathi and WRC Promoter managing director Oliver Ciesla all paid glowing tribute to efforts being made to reclaim the Safari’s place on the WRC roster.
The rally’s organisers, fans and also delegates from the FIA will be looking forward to a well-run rally that will help Kenya bounce back onto the international calendar.
FIA Safety Delegate, Michele Mouton, and her team has already been on the stages looking and gauging every meter of the stage to make sure that they are perfect and to the liking of the foreign drivers.
According to a reliable source, officials from the WRC Promoter, the FIA’s marketing arm, will be gauging every metre of the sections to guide the local organisers on wherever changes need to be applied for the 2020 Safari Rally to run perfectly and as part of the WRC calendar.
Senior officials from top car manufactures are also present to access the general organization and mainly the conditions of the rally stages.
The teams that are represented include Ford, Hyundai and Toyota.
They are basically looking at all aspects, including accommodation, transport and other logistics.
Zimbabwe’s Conrad Rautenbach in 2007 and Finland’s Tapio Laukkanen in 2017 are the only two foreign drivers to have won the Safari Rally since Kenya lost WRC status in 2002.
Both the drivers gave the Subaru their last victories.