Onkar Rai Credit: Innocent Mutaawe

The Safari Rally Kenya’s return to the World Rally Championship calendar proved it was a missing piece in the championship.

After close to two decades, the African event offered monumental adventures and great sceneries. But it was as tough as the Safari has been over the years.

While all aspects of the event proved a success, the Safari got the nod to run until 2026.

It took lots of effort to put the event together. But one name stands out; Gurvir Bhabra.

Bhabra was the Clerk of Course, a key position in the event.

Gurvir Bhabra

With the event behind him now, Bhabra shared with Kawowo Sports his experience.

“We have received reviews from manufacturers, of course FIA and WRC, and so far they are good. Even our own drivers gave good reviews and they liked the event.

“At the moment, we are waiting for the observers’ report and see what the shortcomings were,” he says. 

Credit: © Innocent Mutaawe

Bhabra however admits getting the Safair to its desired outcome was no walk in the park.

“The challenge we had was not knowing what was expected. It was a bit difficult to insight it since most of us were entering into something new.

“The team was young and most of us had never been part of a WRC event. 

“We were guided by experts from the FIA and WRC in all aspects. But still not knowing what is expected was sort of a challenge.”

Safari Rally Officials with experts from WRC and FIA Credit: Courtesy

The Safari Rally was a major attraction both at home and beyond. Thousands flocked the stages, cheered their drivers, and indeed turned the event into a spectacle. 

But dealing with the fans was one of Bhabra and his team’s big challenge.

“We were not expecting so many spectators for this event given the COVID-19 situation. This is something to look into for next year. 

“We had a bit of issues with traffic, luckily it didn’t affect much of the rally flow and the spectators were well behaved while in the stages,” he adds.

spectators at Hells gate stage Credit: © State House Kenya

Bhabra is yet to think about next year’s event. He has already received suggestions on how to spice up the 2022 rally.

2019 World rally champion Ott Tanak has called on the organisers to make it tougher.

Bhabra is however cautious with the requests.

“We cannot make the roads rougher. At the moment that is what we have. 

“What we can do is maybe increase the length of the stages to give them a bit of endurance compared to short stages. We can combine the shorter stages from having 10km at least 30kms or more,” he said. 

The Safari joins the list of the unique events in the championship. 

Bhabra further believes the extension to 2026 will serve a benefit to the region. 

“It’s very important we involve the region in the Safari. We can take this opportunity to benefit from what we learn while organising a WRC event. 

“Just like we had experts guiding us, our officials can be volunteers in several events across the region spreading the knowledge obtained from WRC.”

For Bhabra, being a part of the WRC Safari is yet another pip on his shoulder adding his wealth of experience. 

Bhabra joined rally organisation in 2010 during a Classic Rally in Morocco. A year later, he was the Chairman of the Autocross commission in Kenya.

He has served as a Chairman of stewards for Safari rally between 2015-2016. 

In 2018, he was the Safari rally clerk of the course to date.

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