What you need to know:
- The service park, which is 220 by 110 metres in surface - making it the largest in the World Rally Championship (WRC) circuit - has already been tarmacked under the supervision of manager Anthony Gatei
- Todt advised the Kenya Motor Sports Federation (KMSC) chairman Phineas Kimathi, who is also the WRC Safari Rally CEO, to use the tarmacked area for karting and drifting races
- Todt promised to return to Kenya for the June 24-27 WRC Safari Rally in the company of his wife Michelle Yeoh, whom he called and showed live images of hippos which were grazing from the background at the Naivasha Resort
International Automobile Federation (FIA) President Jean Todt Thursday launched the construction of a VVIP Pavilion at the WRC Safari Rally Service Park in Naivasha at a ceremony where he also mourned Argentine football legend Diego Maradona, who died on Wednesday, as “a true legend.”
Todt said Maradona “will be missed by many” and recalled a moment he had with the fallen legend in Monaco in 2005 where they took photographs alongside seven-time Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher.
He said Maradona was a legend who contributed a lot to football, and sport in general, and cited Pele who was Wednesday quoted as saying he was looking forward to playing football with the Argentine when they meet somewhere again.
Todt also thanked the family of Schumacher, who was injured in a skiing excursion in 2013, for setting up a foundation to assist poor countries, including Kenya, a country the German superstar loved.
The FIA supremo also confirmed that Schumacher remains under medical care and hoped “he will tour Kenya one day.”
Todt, third in 1973 Safari navigating Ove Andersson in a Peugeot 504, acknowledged the success of Briton Lewis Hamilton who equaled Schumacher’s seven world titles record this year and added that this was as a result of “teamwork by the engineers, drivers and manufacturers.”
It is Todt who signed Schumacher in Ferrari team in 1993 and this combination delivered multiple constructors’ and drivers’ titles for the Italian high-end vehicles company while serving as the team principal.
Todt was in Naivasha to commission the WRC Safari Rally Naivasha Service Park and drove a bulldozer, “co-driven” by Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed, as he broke ground for the construction of the pavilion that will be used largely for presidential guests.
The service park, which is 220 by 110 metres in surface - making it the largest in the World Rally Championship (WRC) circuit - has already been tarmacked under the supervision of manager Anthony Gatei.
Kenya’s FIA Vice President Surinder Thatthi said it is the biggest in the WRC with similar sentiments echoed by Amina.
Todt advised the Kenya Motor Sports Federation (KMSC) chairman Phineas Kimathi, who is also the WRC Safari Rally CEO, to use the tarmacked area for karting and drifting races.
“Love for motorsport when we see this Service Park in Naivasha, which has been built from scratch, will see it able to be used in other events such as karting and drifting,” said Todt.
“I am also happy to see from President Uhuru Kenyatta involvement to be the pride of Kenya representing motorsport,” Todt, also the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Road Safety, added.
CS Amina thanked President Kenyatta for his government support towards the Safari.
“We wanted him to see the Service Park… nobody has a bigger Service Park than us. We have no obstacles. Resources have been given to us. Nobody had doubts anymore. Kenya is ready to welcome the Safari and President Kenyatta who is the patron has given us all the support needed,” the CS said.
Todt promised to return to Kenya for the June 24-27 WRC Safari Rally in the company of his wife Michelle Yeoh, whom he called and showed live images of hippos which were grazing from the background at the Naivasha Resort where he also had time for an exclusive live interview with NTV.
He said former UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon is also expected for next year’s Safari.
Next year’s Safari is expected to attract over 70 million viewers with free publicity for Kenya as a tourism destination valued at Sh4 billion.
The event will also inject over Sh6 billion into the Kenyan economy, according to the former WRC Promoter Managing Director Oliver Ciesla.
Kimathi said the Safari will be based in Naivasha area for the next three years but might move to other areas in future, infrastructure allowing.
Todt, who flies out on Friday to Bahrain to attend the country’s F1 race this weekend, later flew to Masai Mara for a game drive and tour.