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Kenyan road race veteran Lee Rose drives on the road in his Mitsubishi during the 57th Safari Rally | Coastweek

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenyan road race veteran Lee Rose drives on the road in his Mitsubishi during the 57th Safari Rally, one of the world's toughest and oldest rallies, which set off from Nairobi. The first stage headed out to Nakuru and the lake Elementaita region with a distance of 48.7 kilometers. XINHUA PHOTO - XU SUHUI

Safari Rally edges close to World Championship re-admission

by John Kwoba NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- More than 45 drivers, with 10 foreign crews, have been cleared to compete in this year’s Safari Rally, which seeks to pass the test and be included in the World Rally Championship (WRC) in 2020.

Safari Rally, arguable the toughest motor rallying event in the history of the WRC, has attracted crews from host Kenya, Britain, Italy, Belgium, Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi.

With entries closing on Wednesday midnight, for the event set for July 5 to 7, organizers are upbeat that the event, running as a candidate race for the WRC this year, will overcome its final hurdle to convince International Federation of Automobile (FIA) to include it in the 14-tier WRC.

"We have huge interest from foreign and local drivers," said WRC Project Chief Executive Officer Phineas Kimathi on Wednesday.

"It is a clear endorsement of the huge following the vent has had."

Kimathi said that the Safari Rally has signed a three-year contract to be part of the 14-tier World Rally Champion (WRC) starting from 2020 to 2022. However it must pass safety tests.

The Safari Rally will also double up as the fourth round of the 2019 African Rally Championship (ARC), in which Kenya’s Manvir Baryan, driving a Ford Fiesta car, is patched at the top of the leaderboard.

Belgians Giancarlo Davite and Sylvia Vindevogel are confident of a good performance.

"It feels good to be back in Kenya for the Safari Rally as part of the FIA WRC Candidate Event.

"I hope to be among the top Mitsubishi Lancer drivers at the end of the competition," said Davite.

There is also Leroy Gomes and Urshilla Gomes from Zambia being cleared to compete.

"It is an inspiration to compete in the Safari Rally. Kenya has some good drivers and am curious to have the feeling of the roads and speed thrills," said Gomes.

Others are Italian Pieiro Canobbio, Ugandans Yasin Nasser, Christakis Fitidis, Godfrey Nsereko, Duncan Mubiru, Ronald Ssebaguzi, JB Musisi, Abdul Katete (Rwanda), Lloyd John (Britain) and Zambian Leroy Gomes.

Kenyan driver Ian Duncan will headline the local crew as he eyes his fifth title in the race.

The 1994 WRC Safari champion will be going for victory as the most experienced driver in the field of 43 drivers who have so far confirmed participation.

The Safari will be flagged on July 5 with cars will then head to the Super Special Stage.

"Drivers will earn additional five points for winning the power stage and bring Rally more to the people," said Kimathi.

So important is safety of drivers and spectators that the FIA has sent the 1983 WRC Safari Rally champion Michelle Mouton as the safety delegate.


Belgian drivers among foreign legion eyeing to conquer iconic Safari Rally

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Belgian Giancarlo Davite navigated by Sylvia Vinevogel of Burundi are the latest crew to confirm participation in this year’s Safari Rally, which counts as a candidate event for the World Rally Championship.

Davite will join Britain’s John Lloyd, who will be navigated by Kenyan Adrian Cavenagn in Ford Escort in the classic.

There is also Zambia star Leroy Gomes, navigated by Urshlla in a Ford Fiesta R5, who will lead the quest for the Africa Rally Championships, of which Safari rally is part of the circuit.

Ugandans Anthony Mugambwa and Leon Ssenyange will drive in a Mitsubishi EVO X.

World Rally Championship Safari Rally Project chief executive officer Phineas Kimathi said Thurdsay that the entries for the July 5-7 rally close on June 19.

"The interest from foreign drivers is high and we hope the manufacturing companies with come on board.

"It is a great statement to have top drivers returning for the Safari Rally," said Kimathi.

The Safari Rally used to be part of the WRC from 1974 to 2002, before it was axed for lack of government support and sponsorship.

It will be held in 2019 as a candidate event for the WRC, the final hurdle to convince Federatione de Automobile Association (FIA) that it meets the safety requirements before it is official reinstated in the 14-tier WRC in 2020.

More crews are expected to submit their entries before the official deadline on June 19.

Only 60 cars will be allowed by the organizers of the event that will be considered as a World Rally Championship candidate round in addition to being a leg of the 2019 African Rally Championships.

Ugandan ace Duncan Mubiru, who rolled spectacularly at a spectator stage last year less than a kilometre to the finish line but went on to finish sixth overall, leads the regional challenge.

Other Ugandans in contention for the Safari are Kepher Walubi/ Anthony Mugambwa, Ronald Ssebaguzi/ Leon Ssenyange and Yasin Nasser/ Ali Katumba.

World motor rallying body trains Kenyan marshals ahead of Safari Rally

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Federation Internationale de Automobile (FIA) has trained more than 100 safety marshals in Nairobi in readiness for the Safari Rally, which runs as a World Rally Championship (WRC) Candidate Event.

The Safari rally, which seeks to be reinstated in the WRC after 17 years of hiatus, also serves as the fourth round of the Africa Rally Championship.

"A record 120 safety marshals’ volunteers underwent training seminar moderated by rally aces Norris Ongalo and Charles Hinga.

"This is the third session, and will be conducted on June 19 by Sue Sanders when she comes to Kenya," said Kenya Motor Sport Federation President Phineas Kimathi.

Sanders is a top global FIA training expert for rally safety.

Sanders, a training manager of Motor Sports Association United Kingdom, will hold the three days training seminar from June 19 to 21 for top rally officials who will be expected to impart and put to practice their expertise in the Safari.

The FIA and WRC Promoter has put premium attention to safety of competitors and spectators.

She will pay attention on decision making, communication, contingency planning.

Security experts from the private sector also met with representatives from the police to draw a security master plan which will be masterminded and executed by the disciplined forces.

"The policed areas will be spectator stages, competitive and open roads where the competition cars will pass," said Kimathi, who is also the Chief Executive Officer of the Safari Rally Project.

Only 60 drivers will be allowed in the rally and local drivers will be selected based on their rankings.

Safari rally hopes to be back in the WRC after it was dropped in 2002 for lack of sponsors and government support.

It will become the only leg in Africa for the WRC 14-leg circuit.


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