The government is set to honour Safari Rally legends, both alive and dead, who have contributed to the growth and development of the iconic motorsports event in the country.
The recognition will be done on June 10 in Nairobi to appreciate the efforts the speedsters did to preserve Safari Rally which has remained a part of Kenya's heritage since its first coronation in 1953.
Among those who will be honoured include five time Safari Rally champion Shekhar Mehta, three time winner Joginder 'The Flying Sikh' Singh, Peter Hughes, Steve Gacheru, Jaswant Singh, Bill Young, Patrick Njiru, David Horsey, Nick Nowicki, Paddy Cliff, Sylvia King, Ian Duncan, Carl Tundo among others.
The initiative to reward the drivers was announced yesterday in Nairobi by Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba in a function where KCB Bank sponsored this year's seventh leg of the World Rally Championship (WRC), the Safari Rally, to a tune of Sh150 million.
Sh100 million will cater for the logistics of the Safari Rally to be held in Naivasha on June 22-25 while Sh50 million will be used for marketing, branding and supporting the three local drivers sponsored by the financial institution ahead of the showpiece.
The drivers include the Kenya National Rally Championships winner Karan Patel/Tauseef Khan, Evans Kavisi/Absalom Aswani and Nikhil Sachania/Deep Patel.
Namwamba said honouring the legends is part of Kenya's celebration of its 70th anniversary since the first rally contest was flagged off in Kenya.
"We are also celebrating the 50th year of the WRC Safari Rally in the country and the 20th year that the KCB Bank has supported motorsports events in Kenya," said Namwamba.
While reacting to the good news of their recognition, King who will be turning 78 this September stated: "I'm really happy to be honoured, the recognition makes me glad. Safari has been my passion, rallying has been my love to date, I have been rallying all throughout my life.
"I'm glad that finally the state will appreciate what we have been doing."
"It is just wonderful that we are celebrating so much this year.I think we have started to get it right in sports," she added.
King took part in the Safari Rally driving a Volkswagen beetle in 1970 and 1971 before navigating Ann Taieth between 1972-1976.
King and Taieth won the Coupe Des Dames on Safari in 1972 in their Datsun 1600 SSS.
The duo completed the 1973 rally, which was 5000km long, but was time barred by six-minutes.
In 1984, they made history as the first women crew to win a KNRC leg (the then Raymond Rally) held in Eldoret.
King also won the Motorsport Personality of the Year award the same year.
She is famous for roping in money bags in sports like the Marlboro and 555 in the 1980s and KCB Bank in 2003.
This season marks the third year since Kenya got its WRC status back after a 19-year hiatus.
While commenting on their sponsorship ahead of this year's WRC Safari Rally, KCB Group Chief Executive Officer,
Paul Russo said: "We take great pride in being part of East Africa’s motorsport story
since 2003, when we first sponsored the Safari rally.
"This marks another chapter in our story and reiterates our commitment in supporting sports, as we celebrate the historic return of WRC Safari Rally on Kenyan soil.”
“It is a great pleasure to see that our sponsorship over the years has resulted in the
growth of motorsport in the region, opening up the sport to many young talents.”
Namwamba said this year's Safari Rally will be officially flagged off by His Excellency President William Ruto at Uhuru Park in Nairobi on June 22.
He said the Sports Ministry will also fund local women contestants in the global showpiece as well as the young FIA drivers namely McRae Kimathi, Jeremiah Wahome and Hamza Anwar.
"This year's edition of the Rally will be different in that we will add the Kenyan flavour to it.
"The flavour will be spread by our local drivers to make the event unique," Namwamba highlighted.
Besides the sponsorship, KCB Bank has also announced a commitment towards promoting sustainability and care for the environment during the Safari Rally and this will include tree growing, recycling and waste management in the run up, during and after the Rally.
Last year, through this partnership with the WRC Safari Rally, 700,000 trees were planted.