What you need to know:
- Kenyatta said the Safari Rally enjoys a very special place in Kenya's heritage.
- The first driver to be flagged off was Kenya's youngster McRae Kimathi in his Safaricom-sponsored M-Sport Ford Fiesta Rally3, followed by Maxime Wahome, the only female driver in the Safari Rally.
The Word Rally Championship (WRC) Safari Rally kicked off Thursday from Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi where President Uhuru Kenyatta flagged off the main cars.
President Kenyatta paid special tribute to the organisers, sponsors and fans of the world famous rally.
‘’We are proud to host this famous event. The event attracts millions of fans and is considered as one of the toughest events in the WRC series. The event unifies all walks of life in Kenya. The competition is not an enmity as it brings us all together,” stated the President.
President Kenyatta said that the event is of historic nature which is most desirable.
"The rally contributes over Sh6 billion to our economy. Thanks to FIA for the support. Thanks to all the drivers and the best of competition.”
Also present during the function, was the FIA Africa President Rodrigo Rocha of Mozambique, Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed and the CEO of the WRC Safari Rally Phineas Kimathi among others.
Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed once more thanked President Kenyatta for his determination to see the rally back to Kenya for the second year running.
McRea Kimathi and Mwangi Kioni were the first crew to be flagged off by the President. They were followed by Maxine Wahome and Waigwa Murage. Sean Johnston/Alexander Kihurani (Citroen) were the first foreign crews to be flagged off. Kihurani’s father is based in Karatina, Nyeri County.
Meanwhile, Sébastien Ogier/Benjamin Veillas (Toyota Yaris) set the fastest time at the Kasarani Super Spectator Stage. They were 1.2 seconds faster the similar car of Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin. Sebastian Leob was the third fastest driver.
On Friday, flagging of the main event will take place at Kenya Wildlife Training Services in Naivasha.
The Toyota Yaris of Finland’s Kalle Rovenpera/Jonne Halttunen will be the first car to leave the ramp before heading for the main event on Friday where they will tackle four competitive stages starting with Loldia and Kedong before the two stages are repeated during the course of the competition.
The Hyundai Hybrid car of Thierry Neuvilla/Martijn Wydaeghe will follow in second place. These are part of the 31 cars that are listed under the FIA P1, P2 and P3 classes.
The group includes some of the leading Kenya National Rally Championship contenders who include the likes of Carl Tundo, Karan Patel, McRea Kimathi, Maxime Wahome, Jeremy Wahome among others. Sean Johnston/Alexander Kihurani (Citroen) were the first foreign crew to be flagged off. Kihurani’s father comes from Karatina, Nyeri County.
The group is divided into two categories which includes the FIA registered drivers and those taking part in the Kenya National Rally Championship part of the competition.
The KNRC Class has 19 cars led by Jasmeet Chana and Ravi Chana in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo10. The group also includes Uganda's top crew of Duncan Mubiri/Musa Nsubuga (Subaru Impreza).
Other drivers from Africa include Zambia’s Urshila Gomes who will guide her husband Leroy Gomes, while Sylvia Vindevogel of Burundi will navigate Giancarlo Davite.
India will also be represented in the WRC by its own established rally driver known as Gaurav Gill. He will drive a Skoda Fabia in Kenya's round of the WRC series.
Cars will return for the overnight rest before Saturday action which starts at 6.30am.
The final day will take place on Sunday when the first car will be flagged off at 6am. The rally is expected to end on Sunday by 3pm.
The full list of the FIA Registered cars:
Kalle Rovenpera/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota Yaris), Thierry Neuvilla/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai), Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota Yaris), Ott Tanak/Martin Jarveoja (Hyundai), Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota Yaris), Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (Ford), Sébastien Loeb/Isabelle Galmiche (Ford), Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (Ford), Sébastien Ogier/Benjamin Veillas (Toyota Yaris), Oliver Solberg/Elliott EdmonDson (Hyundai), Andrien Fourmaux/Alexandre (Ford), Jourdan Serderidis/Frédéric Miclotte (Ford), Kajetan Kajetanowicz/Maciej Szczepaniak (Skoda), Martin Prokop/Zdeněk Jurka (Ford), Sean Johnston/Alexander Kihurani (Citroen), Gaurav Gill/Gabriel Morales (Skoda Fabia), Karan Patel/Tauseef Khan (Ford Fiesta), Leroy Gomes/Urshilla Gomes (Ford Fiesta), Amaanraj Rai/Gurdeep Panesar (Skoda Fabia), Aakhif Virani/Azfar Bhatt (Skoda Fabia),Jeremy Wahome/Victor Okundi (Ford Fiesta), Hamza Anwar/Adnan Din (Ford Fiesta), McRae Kimathi/Mwangi Kioni (Ford Fiesta), Maxine Wahome/Waigwa Murage (Ford Fiesta), Diego Dominguez/Rogelio Penate (Ford Fiesta), Giancarlo Davite/Sylvia Vindevogel (MItsubishi Lancer), Carl Tundo/Tim Jessop (Mitsubsih Lancer Evo10), Nikhil Sachania/Deep Patel (MItsubishi Lancer), Evans Nzioka/Absolom Aswani (MItsubishi Lancer), Rio Smith/Riyaz Ismail (Ford Fiesta).
The KNRC List:
Jasmeet Chana/Ravi Chana (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo10), Duncan Mubiri/Musa Nsubuga (Subaru Impreza), Issa Amwari/Job Njiru (MItsubishi Lancer), Steven Mwangi/Denis Mwenda (Subaru Impreza), Kush Patel/Mudasar Chaudry (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo10), Andrew Muiruri/Edward Njoroge (Subaru Impreza), Daren Miranda/Amman Shah (Subaru Impreza), Edward Maina/Anthony Gichohi (Subaru Impreza), Zameer Verjee/Zahir Shah (Subaru Impreza), Josiah Kariuki/Johm Ngugi (<itsubishi Lancer Evo9).