What you need to know:
- The event is considered one of the world's toughest rallies.
- Past winners included Britain's Colin McRae, Spaniard Carlos Sainz, Juha Kankkunen and Ari Vatanen of Finland.
Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday hailed a decision by the International Automobile Federation (FIA) to include the country's fabled Safari Rally in the world championships from next year.
Kenya has worked hard to get its rally back onto the world circuit after it fell off in 2002 due to concerns over safety, organisation and finances.
The FIA announced in a statement on Friday that Kenya would be included in the 14-round World Rally Championship in 2020, following an e-vote by the World Motor Sport Council.
"It is my pleasure today to announce to the people of Kenya and Africa that this process has been concluded and the Safari Rally has been included in the International Automobile Federation World Rally Championships after 18 years of waiting," Kenyatta said in a statement.
Kenyatta has lobbied hard for the return of the rally to the WRC.
BILLIONS PUMPED INTO ECONOMY
Kenya Motor Sports Federation (KMSF) chairman Phineas Kimathi said Kenya is bound to benefit immensely hence funding will be key to the event’s sustainability on the WRC Series.
“Its return has restored our heritage. Between Sh5 and Sh6 billion will be pumped into the economy for the two weeks the event will receive coverage,” said Kimathi. “We are talking about getting five cent of 4.9 million people who visit WRC events.”
Kimathi said that getting close to 200,000 people, which is 10 per cent of tourists who visit the country will be good for the economy.
"We then have to organise the event well, and create proper structures which will make sure there are no bottlenecks.”
Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed, who is the WRC Project Steering Committee chairperson, said that it’s through collective effort that has led to the return of Safari Rally to WRC Series.
“We undertake to deliver a successful Safari Rally in 2020 since it will not only showcase Kenya's capacity to organise and host international sporting events but also present her scenic sites and sounds to the world,” said Mohammed.
Mohammed noted that the Safari Rally will be broadcast to an estimated over 848 million viewers, through 65 broadcasters, to 155 TV markets, with over 13,000 broadcast hours, which can generate approximately Sh 9 billion into our economy.
NEW ZEALAND AND JAPAN
Rallies in New Zealand and Japan will also make a return to the world stage in 2020 while the rallies in Corsica, Australia and Spain have been dropped.
"In order to further globalise the championship, we need to have more WRC rounds outside Europe. I am glad to see the results of our expansion strategy, with emblematic events such as Kenya and Japan coming back to the WRC calender next year," FIA Rally Director Yves Matton said in a statement.
"Following the integration of Chile last year, the 2020 calender also expands our presence on both the Asian and African continents."
The Safari rally was started as an East African competition between Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania to celebrate the coronation of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
Considered one of the world's toughest rallies, covering over 1,000km across rugged east African savannah, the competition attracted top overseas drivers.
Past winners included Britain's Colin McRae, Spaniard Carlos Sainz, Juha Kankkunen and Ari Vatanen of Finland.
"The Safari holds iconic status across East Africa, with fans from countries like Uganda and Tanzania as enthusiastic about the rally as those from Kenya itself," WRC Promoter managing director Oliver Ciesla said on the championship's website.
"Its heritage will be recalled by all, but at the same time this is a modern-era Safari that sits comfortably alongside our other 13 rounds.
"That doesn't mean its challenge is diminished and we can be sure 2020's version will test our drivers, teams and cars to the full," he added.
The Kenyan rally will be held between July 16-19, 2020.