Daggers drawn as Safari on threshold of WRC comeback

The next three days should determine whether or not Kenya’s iconic Safari Rally will reclaim its status as a World Rally Championship (WRC) round when the 2020 calendar is drawn.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, whose government has given good support to the organising team of this year’s rally, will flag off the competition from the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, at 11am Friday.

The all-important delegation from the International Automobile Federation (FIA), led by safety delegate Michele Mouton, will draw important observations from this weekend’s competition and, hopefully, confirm the Safari’s return to the world circuit next year.

Kenyan drivers will be the first off the ramp Friday morning with a total of 49 cars in the running.

The frontrunners are Manvir Baryan (Skoda Fabia) is aiming at winning the Safari Rally for the first time, although he has won the Africa Rally Championship series twice, while Carl Tundo (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo10) is chasing his fifth Safari Rally victory.

Onkar Rai, who nearly won the Safari last year, is one of the favourites this year for a top podium finish. Rai crashed in the final stages of the 2018 rally while within touching distance of victory.

“Recce has been good. I am really very impressed with the work that everyone has done in marking out the route. “The plan is to make sure we are clean and consistent, with no silly mistakes, when we need to push we will for sure, but the aim is to keep the pressure on ourselves as well as our competitors,’’ Rai told Nation Sport.

Senior government official

Interestingly, Sports Permanent Secretary Kirimi Kaberia will drive a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo10 (number zero car) as the ceremonial route opener at the Kasarani Super Special Stage.

But it is Mouton who will hit the road 30 minutes ahead on the first car as the official route opener to also assess safety aspects of the rally.

Michelle Mouton
The Kenya Commercial Bank has committed Sh50 million towards this year’s Safari Rally as it runs as a WRC candidate competition.

Besides Kaberia, another senior government official will be behind the wheels of a rally car. Nzioka Waita, the Chief of Staff in the Office of the President, will compete in his second Safari Rally at the wheels of a Mitsubishi Lancer with a journalist with the Presidential delivery Unit, Laban Cliff Onserio, as his navigator.

Meanwhile, Uganda’s Rehma Mohamed, who will navigate Kateete Abdul, will make her debut in the KCB Safari Rally in a Subaru Impreza

After the Kasarani start, the cars will head to the Super Special Stage for a head-to-head competition between two drivers on the 4.5-kilometre stage.

They will then head to Gatamaiyo Forest, a 12-kilometre stage, via Thika Road through exit 14 into Kenyatta Road.

They will come out of the stage at Kinale Forest (Soko Mjinga) and use the main Nairobi-Nakuru highway up to Naivasha town before ending the day at Sopa Lodge for an overnight stay.

Day Two (Saturday) will start in Naivasha and tackle stages around Soysambu and Elmentaita while the final day on Sunday will see action move to the Kedong area before finishing at the Sopa Lodge in Naivasha.

The total distance will be 811 kilometres covering over three days of competition with a competitive distance of 268.78 kilometres and transport distance of 542.45 kilometres.

Source: The Nation