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Lone driver races through the Rift Valley on the lake Elementaita circuit during an East African Safari Rally | Coastweek

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Lone driver races through the Rift Valley on the lake Elementaita circuit during an East African Safari Rally, one of the world's toughest and oldest rallies. XINHUA PHOTO - XU SUHUI

Kenya lobbies for return of East African Safari Rally to the WRC

By Ben Ochieng NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya will lobby for the return of the Safari Rally to the World Rally Championships (WRC) series, a senior official said on Wednesday.

Kenyan Commissioner for Sports, Gordon Oluoch, told officials of the Kenya Motor Sports Foundation (KMSF) to furnish his office with details that are required to return the event to world status.

"Older Kenyans recall with nostalgia the days when the Safari Rally was part and parcel of their lives.

"We want to return the rally so that we can continue from where we left," Oluoch said on Wednesday during the launch of the 2016 rally season, which begins on Feb. 27.

The Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) removed the rally from its world calendar in 2002 after years of expressing its reservations on Nairobi's handling of the event and over issues concerning distance covered, security of drivers and spectator safety.

The world motor sports governing body had initially directed Safari Rally organizers to reduce the distance of the grueling event that brought top ranking drivers to Kenya in order to synchronize it with 14 other international rallies staged under the auspices of FIA to make the East African event conform to international standards.

The rally suffered a setback in 2000 when FIA moved the rally from its traditional April date of rain and mud to the less dramatic of cold and dusty July.

The event was replaced by Turkey's Anatolian Rally.

Phineas Kimathi, a director at KMSF, said the association will start by first deviating from open public road stages to serene private farm closed roads where safety is guaranteed.

"As a first step towards gaining acceptability from FIA, we will start by confining all spectators to designated stages and they will be required to park their vehicles and walk to the stages without interfering with rally traffic," the former rally driver said.



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