Kenya’s campaign to regain World Rally Championship (WRC) status still seems a distant reach despite the visit of the Federation Internationale De L’Automobile(FIA) president Jean Todt last month.
Jean Todt was on a two day visit in Kenya to launch the WRC Safari Rally project.
Todt together with the Motorsport heads and government officials launched the WRC Safari Rally headquarters at the Moi international sports centre in Nairobi.
Safari Rally Kenya lost its WRC status in 2002.
“It’s with emotions that I am here in Nairobi to open the WRC Safari rally project. I have a lot of memories here as a co-driver.
“This modern World Rally Championship needs to extend its horizon and become more global. I would like to see us return to Kenya for a tough and demanding event,” said
The government of Kenya has so far funded the campaign with US 2.5million dollars, a fully furnished offices at Moi International Sports centre and a lot more according to the organisers.
However, with the opening of the WRC Safari headquarters, does it mean the return of WRC is a sure deal?
Well, it may not be the case as Kenya needs to fulfil several aspects before it could reclaim the WRC status.
Kenya Motorsport Federation president Phineas Kimathi shared with Kawowo Sports his conquest for WRC Safari project.
“Getting WRC is a process. First Kenya must run a candidate event in 2019 under the observation of of the FIa and WRC promoters. If we get it right we will be almost there by 2020.”
“But I have met with Mr Todt and WRC promoter managing director Ciesla in three FIA forums were I sold them the WRC Safari concept and delivered the government’s commitment letter to FIA towards the Safari rally,” said Kimathi.
FIA vice president in charge of Africa Surinder Thatthi however says adequate funding will bring the possibility of WRC to be back in Kenya.
“Money is the priority in this whole project. The WRC promoters; media and commercial rights owners are interested in how much money is paid before you can discuss other things.
“The promoter provides the whole event coverage and other important logistics. So if you can beat his price then chances of having WRC are high,” he explained.
Thatthi however believes Kenya has chances to regain the WRC.
“Kenya has the desire to have WRC back and they are doing everything to achieve it. Chances are their basing on what they have done so far.
“They just have to prove more that they are ready and capable in front of the WRC promoters,” he added.
Kenya is hosting the second round of the African Rally Championship on 16-18th March.
A team from the WRC promoters will attend the Safari Rally to further assess Kenya’s ability to host the world event.
Anwar Sidi, a Motorsport photographer also shared his perception of the return of WRC to Kenya.
“Safari Rally was the best WRC event ever. It was more than just cars and speeds. If you look at picture of WRC Safari then, each tells a different story.
“Kenya can of course get WRC back after meeting a few requirements. It will also depend on the upcoming Safari rally.”
“But it will totally be a different Safari rally. The adventure of Safari of the old days can not easily be regained. But the exciting competition, cars, speed can all be achieved. Personally I would be very happy to see world rally champions race in Safari and see Kenya back on the map,” he added.
The drive to push for WRC back started gradually in 2014 when Kenya withdrew from the Africa rally championship series. One of the reasons for the withdraw was the discontentment in the delay to process the WRC project.
In 2015, Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta promised his full support to have WRC back when he met Jean Todt in Nairobi.
In the same year, Kenya was requested to return to the Africa rally championship series as one way to push for the WRC project.
Safari Rally eventually returned to the Africa Rally Championship series in 2016 after a two years absence.
The vision to have WRC back is getting clear but will be more vivid after Kenya gets a candidate event next year.