Kenya returns to prestigious WRC after 18-year hiatus

Friday September 27 2019

Kenya safari rally

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta flags-off the 66th edition of the Safari Rally at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani on July 5, 2019. The Safari Rally has been drafted to WRC's 2020 calendar. PHOTO | PSCU  

KIPLAGAT EDWIN
By KIPLAGAT EDWIN
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Kenya will host a leg of the prestigious World Rally Championship next year after an 18-year break.

Announcing the 2020 calendar on Friday, world governing body of motorsport FIA said: "The addition of Kenya’s iconic Safari Rally, one of global motorsport’s legendary contests, means the WRC returns to Africa, the world’s second largest continent by size, for the first time since 2002."

Kenya was admitted to the championship together with Japan and New Zealand.

The inclusion of Kenya’s iconic Safari Rally follows a successful dress rehearsal in July at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani in the capital Nairobi.

“It’s no secret we wanted to further globalise the series by incorporating more events outside Europe and we’ve achieved that next year with this exciting new-look calendar,” said Oliver Ciesla, managing director of WRC Promoter.

It is the first time the WRC has included six continents—Europe, North America, South America, Asia, Africa and Australasia—in its 48-year history.

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“The return of Japan and Kenya provide a presence in the world’s largest two continents by size for the first time in more than two decades. The last time Asia and Africa appeared in the WRC together was 1999,” added Ciesla.

President Uhuru Kenyatta hailed the development saying that the lobbying process took seven years.

“Before my Administration assumed office in 2013, I made a promise to the people of Kenya, to return the Safari Rally back to the International Automobile Federation World Rally Championship family. This process has taken us seven years,” President Kenyatta said in a statement.

Kenya will open the second half of the 14-part series from July 16-19, 2020.

Safari Rally was first held in Kenya in 1953 to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. It started as the East African Safari Rally traversing the three East African countries of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

The Rally developed to become the toughest Rally in the world and was regarded as a true test of man and machine.

Following is the confirmed 2020 calendar:

  • Rally Monte-Carlo (January 23-26).
  • Rally Sweden (February 13-16).
  • Rally Mexico (March 12-15).
  • Rally Chile (April 16-19).
  • Rally Argentina (April 30-May 3).
  • Rally Portugal (May 21-24).
  • Rally Italy (June 4-7).
  • Safari Rally (July 16-19).
  • Rally Finland ( August 6-9).
  • Rally New Zealand (September 3-6).
  • Rally Turkey (September 24-27).
  • Rally Germany (October 15-18).
  • Rally Great Britain (October 29-November 1).
  • Rally Japan (November 19-22).

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