Kenya’s Safari Rally’s bid to get reinstated to the World Rally Championships got a major boost on Thursday after the government signed an agreement with global rally governing body FIA.
FIA President Jean Todt, who visited the country in February, said the long wait is over and Safari Rally will now become a candidate event for the 13-leg World Rally Championship (WRC) starting in 2019. Should Kenya impress, then it will be reinstated as one of the 13 rounds of WRC starting in 2020.
“Kenya’s Safari Rally becomes official WRC candidate event,” Todt said in a statement from Paris Thursday.
“We have signed an agreement between the Government of Kenya the Official WRC promoter today in Paris at the Automobile Club de France. I hope that will encourage the development of motor sport and Road Safety in Africa,” he added.
In March, Oliver Ciesla, the Managing Director and Promoter of the WRC had expressed his satisfaction with the organization of the rally, the premier motorsport event in Africa and said they will consider its commercial viability before placing it as a candidate event for WRC in 2019.
“We will share what we have observed here with other stakeholders including the FIA and car manufacturers. We will then discuss with them the commercial viability so as to enable us to organize the rally as a candidate event,” Ciesla said then in Nairobi.
The chairman of the Safari Rally Organizing Committee Phineas Kimathi however, remained optimistic, Kenya will clear the remaining hurdles and be granted a slot in the 13-tier WRC, which currently has not leg in Africa. The event has always been held as part of the African Rally Championship.
“We have government support and have incorporated the safety detains required by FIA president Jean Todt. We have now to wait and see what next ahead of 2019,” Kimathi said.
Kenya’s Safari Rally, which was part of the WRC, was dropped in 2002 but it still stands out as the one of the toughest rallies in the world.
Kenya’s Safari rally will however, still face stiff challenge from Sweden and Canada, who are also eyeing to have their events added to the WRC.
Early this year, Ciesla said they were mooting at adding a second snow rally to the World Rally Championship.
The WRC last ran two snow events in 2007, when Rally Sweden was on consecutive weekends with Rally Norway.
Canada has expressed an interest in hosting a winter rally, but admitted it’s at least five years away.