The Safari Rally officially marked its return to the World Rally Championship (WRC) calendar on Thursday after Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta flagged off the event at the Kenyatta International Conference (KICC) in the capital Nairobi.
Also present during the ceremony was FIA president Jean Todt and WRC Safari Rally CEO Phineas Kimathi.
The rally cars which had assembled at the KICC were to be driven to the Moi International Sports Centre Kasarani on the outskirts of the city for a Super Special Stage later in the day before proceeding to Naivasha town.
The first car flagged off was driven by Onkar Rai and his co-driver Drew Sturrock followed by Carl ‘Flash’ Tundo, who finished second in the event in 2019, with his co-driver Tim Jessop.
The Rally, the sixth round of the 2021 WRC season, will get underway on Friday with drivers battling through 18 competitive stages spanning 320.19 km all the way to Sunday.
58 drivers are competing in the event, 24 of them foreigners with the most prominent being Frenchman Sébastien Ogier who has claimed seven WRC titles in the last eight seasons.
The Safari Rally was part of the World Rally Championship for many years until 2002, when it was axed for lack of finance and government support.
The event was eventually restored to the WRC calendar following an intensive campaign led by President Kenyatta.
Last year’s event was, however, postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
1/2 President Uhuru Kenyatta joins motorsport enthusiasts at the Moi International Sports Centre Kasarani for the Super Special Stage of the 2021 WRC Safari Rally. #WRCSafariRally2021 #SafariRallyKenya pic.twitter.com/v9zgUCeGrJ
— State House Kenya (@StateHouseKenya) June 24, 2021