Two-year FIA Rally Star Programme yielding good results
What you need to know:
- For Kenya, tourist arrivals are rising through the indirect benefits of hosting the WRC Safari Rally — the most watched and followed world championship event — ahead of similar rallies in Sweden, Italy, Portugal, Croatia, Mexico, Chile, Estonia, Finland, Japan, Greece and Central Europe.
- The Safari attracts over 100,000 spectators who promote domestic tourism and boost the income of local entrepreneurs.
Sports records are not planned nor does a generational crossover delay. This is expected and has happened throughout history. Examples abound.
The late Sir Rodger Bannister broke the one mile world record in athletics — previously deemed as impossible by mankind — on a windy, wet afternoon minus a huge crowd in the backwaters of Oxford in 1954.
Closer home, last Sunday Jeremiah Wahome won the season opening RSC round of the Kenya National Rally Championship series in Machakos.
The Federation Internationale De’I Automobile (FIA) Rally Star Programme is certainly yielding results.
Wahome is among four drivers who were selected for the talent development programme in 2021 aimed at identifying the next generation of rally drivers irrespective of one’s background.
Navigated by Victor Okundi, Wahome became the first black Kenyan to win a national event in 25 years since Jonathan Toroitich’s victory in the 1997 Caltex Equator Rally.
He was closely followed by anther FIA Rally Star Programme teammate McRae Kimathi, who was fifth in the 2022 FIA Junior World Rally Championship standings.
Both Wahome and Kimath iwere driving Ford Fiesta R3 machines tuned in Poland.
Another member of the programme, Hamza Anwar, is in Umea, Sweden where he will be making his debut in the WRC Rally Sweden today in a similar machine fully serviced by a professional crew from Poland.
Anwar will also compete in Croatia, Italy, Portugal and Greece.
It is hoped that Wahome will gain international exposure and skills, just like Kimathi did last season, and transfer the same back home where the sport of rallying is undergoing the inevitable generational change.
Wahome began his rallying career in go-kart racing before he was 10 years old. Thereafter, he moved to the United Kingdom for further studies.
He also took part on circuits in the F3 category before returning home recently after completing his studies.
Locally, Wahome has shown glimpses of brilliance in the last two seasons, but he has never been lucky to realise his full driving potential owing to a myriad of mechanical problems.
But that changed last Sunday . He held off intense pressure from Kimathi until the end when he beat his strongest challenger by seven seconds.
The fourth team member of the FIA Rally Star Progamme, Maxine Wahome, is missing in action. She is involved in a court case following the death of her fiancee, Asad Khan, who succumbed to his injuries in hospital after an incident at his Kileleshwa home.
Maxine had been enjoying a good run and she became the first woman driver to finish a global event in 25 years when she competed in the WRC Safari Rally last year.
This clearly illustrates the importance of Kenya piggy-backing on an international sporting event to shore up its brand visibility, talent development and economic gains.
This is bringing good results since the Safari Rally’s result to the WRC calendar in 2021.
Wahome and company are work in progress. They are motivating more young Kenyans to become professional rally drivers and earn a living while at it.
The WRC is not a competition specifically for the fastest drivers, but it is an industry which has fully fledged branches of marketing, media, the environment, engineering, protocol, and above all, interaction and promotion of geopolitics of a globalised world.
For Kenya, tourist arrivals are rising through the indirect benefits of hosting the WRC Safari Rally — the most watched and followed world championship event — ahead of similar rallies in Sweden, Italy, Portugal, Croatia, Mexico, Chile, Estonia, Finland, Japan, Greece and Central Europe.
The Safari attracts over 100,000 spectators who promote domestic tourism and boost the income of local entrepreneurs.