Kenya’s Safari Rally returns to World Rally Championship

Baldev Chager and his navigator Ravi Soni (centre) pose for a photo alongside the first and second runners-up after winning the 2019 Safari Rally on Sunday, July 7 2019. COURTESY: TWITTER/KCB

The Safari Rally has been included in the International Automobile Federation (FIA) World Rally Championship 2020 Calendar, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta confirmed on Friday.

This marks the return of the World Rally Championship to Kenya and Africa after an 18-year hiatus.

President Kenyatta pledged to ensure that the event will get all the necessary support after delivering on his promise to return the Safari Rally to the FIA World Rally Championship.

“My administration will continue to work with the relevant bodies to ensure that the 2020 Safari Rally and successive events thereafter are hosted successfully,” President Kenyatta said in a statement.

WRC Promoter managing director Oliver Ciesla congratulated the Safari Rally Project team and CEO Phineas Kimathi for their efforts to restore the event to its WRC status.

“Its return holds as much importance on a global level. Africa’s absence from the WRC for almost two decades has been significant and the championship’s return to the world’s second biggest continent is a landmark achievement in our strategy to further globalise the series,” Ciesla said.

The event will form the eighth of 14 legs, between July 16 and 19, according to the WRC. It will also mark the beginning of the second half of the 2020 campaign following a mid-season break.

The Safari Rally was part of the World Rally Championship for many years until 2002, when it was dropped for lack of finance and government support. It was relegated to the African Rally Championship (ARC).

The Rally, widely acknowledged as the toughest leg in the WRC, was first held in Kenya in 1953 to commemorate the coronation of Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

The rally will be based in Nairobi with the Service Park and stages located near Lakes Naivasha and Elementaita, north-west of the city in the Great Rift Valley, the WRC said.