Safari Rally revs up WRC status dream

By Robin Toskin: Friday, February 22nd 2019 at 09:31 GMT +3 | Sports
President Uhuru Kenyatta enters a rally car driven by Ian Dancun during the KCB Safari Rally flagging off ceremony at KICC Nairobi, on 21-09-2014 [Courtesy]

Mark the dates, July 5 – July 7, 2019. Cancel everything initially planned and block these days out. Pencil in the venue — Naivasha the breath-taking floor of the Great Rift Valley — the arena for the Safari Rally World Rally Championship Candidate event.

This year’s contest will be Kenya’s premier audition in her bid to regain the World Rally Championship status.

None other than the President of the Republic of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, has raised the stakes in notes contained in the Rally Guide released Wednesday by WRC Safari Rally Project secretariat where he says: “We want to get the rally back to what it used to be many years back when world beaters converged in Kenya for what’s hitherto the world’s toughest rally. We will work together with the organisation running motorsports (Kenya Motor Sports Federation) to see how we can give Safari its lost WRC glory.”

The ceremonial flag off of the event will take place on Friday, July 5 at Moi International Sports Complex, Kasarani, followed by a Super Special Stage at the same location.

Cars will then proceed to Naivasha for the first service and for an overnight stay at a secure area in the racing circuit referred to as Parc fermé in rallying circles. WRC Safari Rally Project CEO Phineas Kimathi said they had made tremendous strides towards actualising the dream of returning the event on the WRC calendar.

“Our aim is to not only make our nation and our people proud and deliver on our President’s promise, but benefit from economic windfall the WRC status brings to our economy,” said Kimathi, who also made his name competing in the event before it was stripped of the global status.

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Belgian driver Thierry Neuville and compatriot co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul race their Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC during the Micky's Jumps at Monte Lerno, on the third day of the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship in Sardinia on June 9, 2018 near Pattada village, Sardinia [Courtesy]

Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa said: “A lot of work has been done behind the scenes to ensure Safari Rally regains the WRC status we lost in 2002. We would like Kenyans to turn out in large numbers in Naivasha come July. Given President Uhuru Kenyatta’s passion to get the WRC status back, we have to pull all the stops to ensure the Candidate Rally event succeeds,” Echesa told Standard Sports yesterday.

Safari Rally race Director Jim Kahumbura in conjunction with Clerk of the Course Gurvir Bhabra have completed mapping the racing circuit.

Once in Naivasha, drivers will begin the battle of man and machine on Saturday, July 5 at 6:00 am and proceed to do three stages repeated twice namely, Soysambu, Elementaita and Sleeping Warrior. 

At the end of the day, the cars will proceed to Lake Naivasha Sopa Resort for end of day service and overnight Parc Ferme.

The rally ends on Sunday, July 7 once the cars have tackled Moi North Lake Road and two competitive stages on Malewa Bay, Loldia all the way to Kigio Wildlife Conservancy and Kedong Ranch. The final section of the Rally will be a repeat of the earlier stages without a re-run on Kedong Ranch. At about 1.40 pm the first car will be back at the Sopa Resort finish Ramp.

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