What you need to know:
- “We are going through the final (2019 Safari Rally) reports together with the WRC Promoter before they (WRC) forward these reports to the FIA President,” Kimathi told Nation Sport on telephone from Jyvaskyla.
- “The Cabinet Secretary (Amina Mohammed) will be joining us in Finland this weekend.
Kenya’s dream of hosting a World Rally Championship (WRC) round during next year’s Safari Rally is very much on course to turning into reality.
WRC Safari Rally Project chief executive officer Phineas Kimathi will be joined in Finland this weekend by Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed as he compiles a final report from last month’s Safari Rally which will then be presented to the International Automobile Federation (FIA) in the next few days.
The Kenyan delegation is in the Finnish town of Jyvaskyla on the sidelines of the Rally of Finland where they will meet top officials of the FIA along with the WRC Promoter, FIA’s commercial arm.
Last month’s Safari Rally was organised as a WRC candidate rally with the FIA sending half a dozen officials to assess Kenya’s organisational acumen.
Within the timelines of the process
“We are going through the final (2019 Safari Rally) reports together with the WRC Promoter before they (WRC) forward these reports to the FIA President,” Kimathi told Nation Sport on telephone from Jyvaskyla.
“The Cabinet Secretary (Amina Mohammed) will be joining us in Finland this weekend.
“We are within the timelines of the process and once the report is sent to the FIA, they will discuss and give input on areas that we need working on, and within the next four to five weeks, we should get an announcement on whether or not our bid to get back onto the WRC is accepted, but we are very positive,” Kimathi said. The Safari Rally has been off the WRC radar since 2002 when the Kenyan round was struck off owing to security and financial concerns. But Kenya has been fighting to reclaim the status with President Uhuru Kenyatta setting up the WRC Safari Project last year, gazetting Kimathi as CEO.
At the end of last month’s Safari Rally, WRC Promoter managing director Oliver Ciesla gave a thumbs up to the Kenyan round.
“It has been 18 years. What I can tell from outside is that the memory of the Safari is still alive. Fans around the world have a great appetite for the Safari,” he said in Naivasha.
In Friday’s Rally of Finland action, meanwhile, championship leader Ott Tanak made the early running as Toyota cars filled the top three places after the day's first six stages.
The Estonian held a five-second advantage over his teammates Jari-Matti Latvala and Kris Meeke.
Tanak was running second after Thursday's short opening chase around the streets of host town Jyvaskyla but soon got his nose in front when the race switched to the fast but awkward gravel forest roads.
“Its difficult, it’s a big job,” Tanak told wrc.com.
“I’m trying hard but it’s not so easy. The car feels really good and I will do everything I can. Let’s see what is possible.”
The biggest disappointment
Defending six-time champion Sebastien Ogier was down in sixth in his Citroen, already 12 seconds behind Tanak and somewhat in awe of his rival’s performance. “It’s incredible what he is doing,” said the Frenchman. “I cannot match it.”
The biggest disappointment was Thierry Neuville, currently third in the title race just seven points behind Tanak, who slipped to eighth, 24 seconds off the pace.
“To be honest, I tried very hard to attack. If I push more I will be outside where I need to be to keep my rhythm,” said the Belgian.
His Hyundai teammate Craig Breen fared rather better. The Irishman, who has been drafted in for this rally, was running fifth just nine seconds behind Tanak.