2020 Kenya Safari Rally postponed due to COVID-19

FILE PHOTO: 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 Kenyan Safari Rally will have to wait another year before it makes a return to the World Rally Championship (WRC) calendar after this year’s edition was postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kenyan Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed released a statement on Sunday saying that the decision had been arrived at following lengthy discussions by the Kenyan government, the WRC Promoter and the International Automobile Federation (FIA).

The event was to form the 8th of 14 legs, between July 16 and 19, and would have marked the beginning of the second half of the 2020 campaign following a mid-season break.

“The pronouncement has considered the effect of the coronavirus disease on global economies, cross-border travel, mass global engagements among other health-necessitated restrictions vis-a-vis Kenya and associated partners’ commitment to host a successful and monumental event after an 18-year break,” the statement read in part.

According to the statement, the exact date of the event next year will be announced at a later time.

Mohamed, who noted that the decision was not an easy one to take, added that Kenya will continue to prepare for the event.

“We will continue to prepare for the event as groundworks are already in top-gear and look forward to welcoming rally professionals, teams and enthusiasts to Kenya when the event is re-convened next year,” Mohamed said.

The government meanwhile also assured of the Ministry of Sports’ continued financial support to the event as a critical aspect of its legacy.

The CEO of the Safari Rally Project Phineas Kimathi said that the team had already completed the Event Safety Plan, Itinerary and Supplementary Regulations within the stipulated FIA and WRC timelines and will finish the necessary arrangements.

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).

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta successfully spearheaded an intensive campaign to have the Safari Rally return to the WRC calendar.