Safari Rally could be in WRC calendar for a long time

World Rally Championship (WRC) Safari Rally CEO Phineas Kimathi (right) takes Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed around the service park area in Naivasha during an update tour on June 5, 2020.


Photo credit: Anwar Sidi | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • FIA’s confidence in Kenya has been growing ever since President Uhuru Kenyatta expressed his administration’s desire to return the iconic Safari Rally back to the WRC in 2013
  • The calendar, approved by the FIA and WRC Promoter has 12 events and only three -- Safari, Chile, and Japan -- are outside Europe
  • Unlike the Safari, which has full government backing, the Promoter is still in discussion with Motorsport UK to confirm the country’s required government funding, and an announcement will be forthcoming soon


A closer look at the 2021 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) calendar shows Kenya is extremely lucky.

And with the calendar release coming in the wake of the appointment of Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed to the FIA World Motor Sports Council, unless otherwise, we are going to be in the championship for a long time.

FIA’s confidence in Kenya has been growing ever since President Uhuru Kenyatta expressed his administration’s desire to return the iconic Safari Rally back to the WRC in 2013, followed by several one-on-one meetings with the FIA president Jean Todt.

The calendar, approved by the FIA and WRC Promoter has 12 events and only three -- Safari, Chile, and Japan -- are outside Europe.

However, Argentina in South America has been earmarked as a reserve event occasioned by the uncertainty of the long term impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Reserve list

The calendar is designed to appeal to both competitors and WRC fans with keen details to the long term impact of the Covid-19 pandemic which halted the 2020 championship for more than six months.

Other races in the reserve list are Turkey, Latvia, Belgium, Greece, and Italy (Monza).

The reserves are contingency to avoid the serious management challenges caused by the pandemic which resulted in the WRC Promoter reaching out to Estonia and Monza to fill in the gap in the 2020 calendar.

Monza should not be confused with Sardegna, the traditional Italian WRC round held last weekend, and won by Dani Sordo in a Hyundai i20. Monza will be the final round of the revised 2020 calendar on  December 4 to 6.

Estonia put up a remarkable event which kick-started the 2020 calendar in September.. It has been included in the WRC subject to the conclusion of some contractual agreement with the Promoter.

Unlike the Safari, which has full government backing, the Promoter is still in discussion with Motorsport UK to confirm the country’s required government funding, and an announcement will be forthcoming soon.

Fine-tune

For the Safari which was postponed in May over Covid-19, the WRC nod is welcome and organisers deserve kudos after continuing to work on the July 2020 timelines.

The KWS Training Institute Service Park is taking shape and the resumption of motorsport activities across the country will inject a sense of purpose for officials and competitors to use this platform to promote the Safari amongst Kenyan fans.

The coming eight months will be crucial in fine-tuning every aspect of the iconic event, at its peak considered the toughest wally in the world, now being sold as “the Great African Experience in Kenya."

The inclusion of Croatia to the WRC for the first time in the championship’s history dating back to 1973 has been described by the WRC Promoter Managing Director Jona Sibel as “an exciting new challenge to the championship and, brings huge anticipation.”

The country’s all-asphalt rally based in the capital Zagreb is slated for April 22 to 25.

'Journey into the unknown'

The season kicks-off with the traditional season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo in the French Alps, followed by Rally Sweden.

Portugal in the late May fixtures is the first of three gravel rounds followed in June by Italy and Kenya. The roads in Kenya are still being considered as a “journey into the unknown.’’

The championship will then take a two-month break for the FIA and WRC Promoter to access the impact of Covid from the experience both bodies have gained since March.

“It’s essential our event organisers are fully committed to managing the difficult Covid-19 controls we can expect to be in place next year while delivering high-quality championship rounds. I’m confident the 12 rallies chosen for next year will not let us down,” said Siebel.

njengap@ke.nationmedia.com