Credit: © Innocent Mutaawe

Africa is the world’s second-largest continent in the world. It is endowed with beauty in all its four corners.

But one country stands out; Kenya.

The East African country lies on the Indian ocean coastline. Further inland is beauty beyond measure.

North West of the Kenya Capital Nairobi is Naivasha. That was the host town of the 2021 Kenya World rally championship Safari Rally.

For 19 years, the world rally championship had eluded Africa.

Credit: © Innocent Mutaawe

On its return, there was no better country to host the event than Kenya. And not better town than Naivasha to have the three days of grit and thrills of the world’s best motorsport competition.

The world rally championship is back on the continent. But what did it miss?

When Safari rally was dropped in 2002, it went with the unique adventure, wild life, the scenery that Africa provides. The challenge too was missing in the championship. 

Credit: © Toyota Gazoo

This year’s Safari rally added an all new competition to the new generation drivers with roads that are not anywhere in the rest of the championship. 

The special stages went through the wildlife reserves; giving unusual sights of the green scenery. The flamingos on Lake Elementeita added color the picturesque scenes.

Ott Tanak Credit: Innocent Mutaawe

Occasionally, the rally service park was treated to wildlife visits as warthogs wandered around. 

The stages put the crews to a tough test with their bumpy surface, deep volcano sands; making unpredictable bets for everyone. 

Just like the rocks on the stages, the roaming wild animals called for a cautious approach. A zebra or giraffe crossing the road could end a crew’s participation just like the rocks did on their suspensions. 

The tough challenges pushed the crews to the extreme both physically and emotionally. 

Thierry Neuville Credit: Innocent Mutaawe

Each of the WRC crew faced their own fate on the stages.

The enthusiasm and love for the sport from the population was extremely amazing. 

Credit: © State House Kenya

Thousands of local and even foreigners filled the stages in Nairobi and Naivasha just to have a sight of the world rally cars. 

The enthusiasm exuded by the return of the world rally championship to Kenya caught everybody; even Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.

President Kenyatta was a spectator too over two days.  

President Uhuru Kenyatta(in red) spectating at hells gate Credit: © State House Kenya

Besides the passion and the ambiance in the stages, the weather threw its own provocation to the crews as they fought to maneuver through the slippery roads under a heavy pour on Saturday’s leg.

Credit: © Hyundai Motorsport

There was indeed full approval of the thrills of the Safari rally.

“I think Rally Kenya didn’t disappoint anybody, lots of entertainment and it’s been a really enjoyable experience. We have built a lot of memories that we will remember for a long time.

“A tough challenge of course different from anything else we have done in our career but that’s what we expected and that’s what we like,” said the eventual Safari rally winner Sebastien Ogier. 

Sebastien Ogier with a group of Maasai after securing the Safari rally victory Credit: © Toyota Gazoo

FIA President, Jean Todt too added a voice of appreciation.

“I am so far impressed with Safari rally. The organisers have done everything to make it look like the old safari rally which was tough for crews. 

“Everything was in place. All the measures to ensure everyone remains safe in this pandemic. I want to congratulate Kenya,” he said at the end of the four days event. 

Like they say, first impressions matter. Kenya, indeed outdid itself. And the rest of the world now believes a round of the world rally championship without Africa is no championship.

Credit: © Innocent Mutaawe

The Safari rally is now guaranteed to be on the WRC calendar until 2026.

Indeed, the magnificent African flavor is back.

Flamingos at lake Elementaita Credit: © Innocent Mutaawe

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