FIA boss Todt says Safari will add zest to 2021 WRC calendar

Todt happy with Safari reinstatement in the WRCFIA president Jean Todt believes the reinstatement of Safari Rally Kenya to the World Rally Championship (WRC) will add the much-needed a zest that has been missing over the years.

Carl Tundo

The nature of Safari, organised by the WRC Safari Rally Project, which is a joint venture between the Kenyan government and the Kenya Motor Sports Federation (KMSF), has evolved to fit into the modern-day WRC.

However, its character remains the energy-sapping closed dirt roads, stunning picture-postcard scenery and exotic African wildlife.

The Safari event was earlier scheduled for July 16 -19 but was postponed to 2021 due to COVID-19 fears. The iconic African event was to mark the beginning of the second half of the 2020 campaign following a mid-season break.

“We thank the Kenyan government and President Kenyatta and all the people who participated in bringing back WRC in Africa. Like we mentioned, Swedish Rally is meant for snow and Safari Rally was a traditional event where everyone was happy to see cars cover long distances. But things have changed and  no one would accept to have similar stages,” he told Kawowo Sports website.

He added: “But Kenya will be different with gravel roads, nature, adventure and all other things needed for the interest of the World Rally.”

Safari has since 2003 counted towards the FIA African Rally Championship (ARC) after being dropped from this year’s global series.

The Safari was regarded as one of motorsport’s most prestigious and celebrated events of its time before departing the WRC series in 2002.

Safari was dubbed the toughest round of the WRC amid rocky and rutted open-road gravel tracks unpredictable weather which could transform dry and dusty trails into glutinous mud-baths in minutes.

The route was also three times longer than other rallies and this created hazards unmatched elsewhere while at the same time ensuring the event remained the most prestigious.

In 2018, Todt launched the WRC Safari Rally Project at Kasarani and expressed his desire to see all the results of the efforts directed into Safari return.

“In my position, I always try to live beyond a personal level. I try to see what is the interest of the championship. And that is how we came up with Safari return,” said Todt.

He said: “We wanted to have rallies in every continent. Each region deserves to host a certain FIA event. Africa only had the World Rallycross Championship in South Africa. But I would like to have more championships go to different parts of the world,” he added.