What you need to know:
- The passion of Kenyan people was overwhelming, media operations were spot on and that (2021) edition was voted as the most watched and followed round of the WRC in 50 years on social media and mainstream channels with a record 128 million TV viewers in 150 countries plus over twice this figure on social media.
- All these were valued in excess of four billion Kenya shillings of free publicity for the country.
It took 19 years for the government and a dedicated team of Kenyans — assisted by foreigners — to return the Safari Rally back to the World Rally Championship (WRC).
But it took only four days to convince the International Automobile Federation (FIA) and the WRC Promoter (marketing arm of the WRC) that the iconic Safari should be confirmed among the 13-race calendar until 2026 after witnessing the 2021 comeback edition.
The passion of Kenyan people was overwhelming, media operations were spot on and that (2021) edition was voted as the most watched and followed round of the WRC in 50 years on social media and mainstream channels with a record 128 million TV viewers in 150 countries plus over twice this figure on social media.
All these were valued in excess of four billion Kenya shillings of free publicity for the country.
A survey by the Tourism Institute, under the Ministry of Tourism, concluded that the WRC Safari Rally injected Sh63 billion directly into the Kenyan economy through air and ground transportation, hospitality, communication, logistics and direct employment of a 24,000-strong labour force.
KCB Bank Kenya has since invested Sh300 million in direct cash sponsorship, Toyota Sh60 million and Kenya Airways Sh22 million in tickets value while Safaricom has backed the event with over Sh60m in sponsorship of the FIA Rally Star Programme.
Beneficieries of this programme — Jeremiah Wahome and McRae Kimathi — are set to claim second and third positions in this year’s Kenya National Rally Championship, a story of promoting talent. This Safari Rally product was not built overnight.
“We stayed for 22 months without pay and few had faith in the project,” the Deputy Clerk of Course, George Mwangi, one of the four pioneer employees of the WRC Safari Rally Project, explains.
And these timelines confirm:
The days of Kenya’s Safari Rally in the World Rally Championship are numbered after Inmarsat, a communication company, steps in — in the last minute — to save the rally with financial sponsorship.
The organisers based the Service Park in a piece of land full of volcanic powder soil which resulted in Richard Burns retiring a few metres from the gate of the Service Park after his Peugeot 206 was bogged in soil in front of world TV cameras.
Organisers had also failed to remit Sh2 million in FIA affiliation fees.
Subsequently, the FIA’s Motorsport Council kicked the Safari out of the WRC series on October 1, 2002;
On January 16, Sports Minister Najib Balala announces that the government will support the Kenya Motor Sports Limited (KMSL) financially to return the Safari Rally onto the WRC calendar;
Kenya inches closer to returning to the WRC after the FIA introduces the Intercontinental Rally Challenge and includes the Safari as one of the rounds with the government, again, offering financial support;
The jubilee government makes a pledge to Kenyans that it would return the Safari Rally back to the World Rally Championship calendar in its 2012 pre-election Manifesto;
Kenya Motor Sport Federation Chairman Phineas Kimathi attends the FIA Sports Conference in Turin, Italy, and holds meetings with FIA President Jean Todt and WRC Promoter Managing Director Oliver Ciesla. Kimathi later presents the WRC Safari Rally Project Proposal Concept Note to the Parliamentary Committee on Sports, Labour and Tourism, with the document positively received;
The government allocates a Sh250 million grant as seed money to kick-start the WRC Safari Rally Project, but funds are not disbursed by the Sports Ministry in absence of a structured organisation under the control of the government as per Treasury regulations.
Talks begins at Cabinet level to institutionalise the WRC Safari Rally Project through a Cabinet Memo, which is passed.
The government gazettes the WRC Safari Rally Project through Kenya Gazette No 181 of November 1, 2017.
The WRC Safari Rally Project is given office space at the Kasarani Stadium by the Ministry of Sports and Heritage.
FIA President Jean Todt meets President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House, Nairobi, and later opens the WRC Safari Rally Project secretariat at Kasarani Stadium on February 27.
June 22: The Principal Secretary in the State Department of Sports, Peter Kirimi Kaberia, accompanied by the WRC Safari Rally Project CEO Phineas Kimathi, signs the Kenya Government the Event Promotion Agreement with the WRC Promoter who are the commercial rights holder of the FIA World Rally Championship in Paris to host the 2019 Africa Rally Championships (ARC) as a WRC Candidate Event.
If successful, the rally would increase Kenya’s chances of returning back to the WRC.
The FIA sends WRC Candidate Event Safety Delegate Michelle Mouton to review the 2019/20 WRC Safari Rally routes;
The WRC Candidate Event Safari Rally is held in Nairobi, Kiambu and Nakuru counties.
The WRC Promoter Managing Director Oliver Ciesla says Kenya has fulfilled the conditions set by the WRC Promoter, but adds that final decision on the future of the Safari Rally in the WRC was in the hands of the FIA;
The WRC Promoter seconds lain Campbell of Britain and Jarmo Lehtinen of Finland to work with the WRC Safari Rally Project;
In July, President Uhuru Kenyatta flags off the 66th Safari Rally at the Kasarani Stadium and watches action at the Super Special Stage.
President Uhuru Kenyatta earlier met with FIA President Jean Todt in Kingston, Jamaica, where they discussed the future of the Safari Rally and road safety issues.
On September 27, President Uhuru Kenyatta announces the return of the Safari Rally back to the FIA World Rally Championship after 18 years in a televised message from New York.
The then FIA President Jean Todt sent a similar message from Geneva to announce that the Kenyans’ plea and desire had been answered, and that the 2020 Safari Rally will be part of the WRC.
In October of the same year, the FIA World Motorsport Council formally announced the dates of the 2020 Safari Rally as the sixth round of the championship.
In March, 2020, the government joins other countries in locking down to stop the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, throwing into disarray the future of the Safari Rally.
The government announces to the rest of the world that it was postponing the 2020 WRC Safari Rally due to the lockdown in May of the same year.
The organising Committee continues with work by reviewing all aspects of the Safari.
Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed gazettes expanded Steering and Organising Committees for Safari Rally Kenya after the Project achieved its mandate of delivering the WRC status.
On June 24, the first car is flagged off by President Uhuru Kenyatta outside the KICC to mark the return of the WRC in Kenya and Africa after 19 years.
Four days later, Sebastien Ogier wins his first Safari Rally title in a Toyota Yaris.
DNation bodytext: The FIA introduces the FIA Rally Star Programme’s “class of 2021” of McRae Kimathi, Hamza Anwar and Jeremiah Wahome;
The Safari Rally is re-confirmed in the WRC Calendar until 2026, the longest contract between the FIA and a single country in recent times.
McRae Kimathi becomes the second black African driver to compete in the WRC after being nominated in the Junior WRC five events scheduled in Sweden, Croatia, Estonia, Portugal and Greece.
He finishes fifth overall at the end of the season.
Sports Cabinet Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba appoints Steering and Local Organising Committees of the WRC Safari Rally.
The government of President William Ruto announces in May a sponsorship package of Sh1.4 billion to host the 2023 Safari Rally;
President William Ruto rides in the Ford Puma Hybrid car of Pierre-Louis Loubet at the Ndulele Conservancy which marks the beginning of the 2023 WRC Safari Rally.
The 2019 world champion Ott Tanak jogs with Kenya’s marathon legend Eliud Kipchoge in Kaptagat as part of the build-up towards the 2023 WRC Safari Rally.
he Safari Rally Greening Project announces that nine million trees have already been planted out of the 19 million target.
October 19: The FIA World Motorsport releases the 2024 WRC calendar which confirms the Safari Rally dates of March of 28 to 31 which fall on the Easter Holiday weekend for the first time in 27 years.