by John Kwoba
NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s premier
motor sport competition Safari Rally has taken a major step in
its bid to return to the World Rally Championship (WRC) after it
was slotted in the 2020 pre-calendar.
year’s Safari Rally in June will serve as a candidate event for
WRC, the new move, pending final draft by WRC, almost confirms
the country’s dream to have the event back in the top tier of
global motor sport circuit in 2020.
Speaking in Nairobi on Saturday, Kenya Motor Sport Federation
president, Phineas Kimathi said it was the best move especially
after the WRC Promoter and Kenya government signed an agreement
with Federation of International Automobile (FIA) in Paris.
The 14-leg WRC has been lacking a leg in Africa since Safari
Rally was dropped in 2002.
Now Kimathi says the classic continental fixture is one year
away from returning to the global calendar in 2020, which will
see more international teams register to compete in Kenya.
"Kenya has signed a three year deal with the promoter to run
the event as part of the WRC from 2020 to 2022.
"It’s an exciting project, which we hope to fulfill all its
conditions. One final step in the agreement was to hold the
Safari rally in 2019 as the Candidate Event. We will do so in
June, Kimathi said on Saturday in Nairobi.
"We are slotted for 2020. But the important thing to me is
not the pre-calendar status but to get it right when we host
this year’s event as The Candidate Event," said Kimathi.
WRC managing director Oliver Ciesla together with FIA
president Jean Todt and Kenya’s Ministry of Sport signed the
agreement, which will empower the WRC and the FIA, the governing
body of world motor sports, to determine if conditions for a
return to the circuit as a fully-fledged race have been met
during this year’s event.
The iconic African event, famed for its tough driving
conditions, featured on the World Championship circuit between
1973 and 2002.
The first ever edition in 1953, marking the coronation of
Queen Elizabeth II, crossed into Tanzania and Uganda. Ciesla
said the move to return to Africa will make the rally truly
"It reflects our determination to restore a legendary rally
to the championship and reintegrate Africa to the top table of
world rallying after an absence of more than a decade," said
Ciesla in a statement.
Principal Secretary for Sports, Ambassador Peter Kaberia,
lauded the move as a step forward.
"Our Government is very committed to the Safari Rally and we
will do everything in our power to make sure this great event is
brought back to the WRC.
"This signing is a major milestone and a day we have looked
forward to for a very long time.
"There is still a lot of work to be done and we will
collaborate closely with all parties ahead of next year’s
candidate rally to show that Kenya is ready and capable to
deliver what is expected," said Kaberia.