SEARCH

Voiceofsport

Safari pace picks up at Kasarani, organisation moves to Naivasha

NAIROBI glistened with enthusiasm on Wednesday as Kenya entered another phase in their bid to return the famous Safari Rally to the World Rally Championship (WRC) calendar in 2020. The country looked all set to run their annual Safari event this year, July 5-7, as a WRC Candidate rally and were pulling all stops to achieve required standards.

The latest is the arrival of experts seconded –- to work alongside Kenyan organisers of the 2019 Safari WRC Candidate event —   through intervention of the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’automobile) and the commercial rights holder of the world championship, WRC Promoter.

Baldev Chager roars towards victory last Sunday in the Kenya National Rally Championship (KNRC) Kajiadio Rally. Areas in the region will be marked as 'Plan B' alternatives in the planning of this year's Safari Rally, a World Rally Championship Candidate Event

Baldev Chager roars towards victory last Sunday in the Kenya National Rally Championship (KNRC) Kajiadio Rally. Areas in the region will be marked as ‘Plan B’ alternatives in the planning of this year’s Safari Rally, a World Rally Championship Candidate Event. TOP: Iain Campbell of WRC’s Wales Rally GB (Great Britain) speaks in Nairobi on Wednesday at the start of his tour to assist the local  Safari WRC Candidate Event organising committee

Iain Campbell, the experienced clerk of the course for WRC’s Wales Rally GB (Great Britain) was the first to arrive in Nairobi and got down to early breakfast meetings; first with members of the steering committee of local WRC Safari Rally Project. By lunch time he had engaged other committees, including the organising one, sporting and event management one and the WRC Safari Rally Project secretariat staff at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani in Nairobi’s northern suburbs.

“There’s passion here. Already a lot of good work has been in past months, said Campbell, adding: “The feeling and support is massive. I am looking forward to joining the team for the next couple of days starting today to check on the route plans. We would love to see WRC status given to Kenya if all goes well.”

Ian Campbell (centre) at Moi International Sports Centre on Wednesday talks to organisers and media including, from left Anwar Sidi, a Safari deputy clerk of the course, Abdul Sidi a motorsport correspondent and Nizar Yakub, a deputy clerk of the course

Iain Campbell (centre) at Moi International Sports Centre on Wednesday talks to organisers and media including, from left Anwar Sidi, a Safari deputy clerk of the course, Abdul Sidi a motorsport correspondent and Nizar Yakub, a deputy clerk of the course

Campbell said he would work for and advise on the organisers laying on a satisfactory event in July to meet the approval of “competitors and their teams and expectations of the world media.”

“We shall re-look every metre of the entire course (route) and all security, medical, transport safety, spectator, accommodation and media plans and facilities,” said Campbell, “and make adjustments if any needed.”

Peter Kaberia, Principal Secretary of the State Department of Sports Development in the Ministry of Sports and Heritage said bidding for the Safari to return to the WRC was “a passionate national desire,” and that the country will go overboard to achieve that. “The Government is very excited, ready and providing as much support and resources to this project as is possible.”

Phineas Kimathi, the President of the Kenya Motor Sports Foundation (KMSF) and chief executive officer WRC Safari Rally Project

Phineas Kimathi, the President of the Kenya Motor Sport Foundation (KMSF) and chief executive officer WRC Safari Rally Project

“I, like many other Kenyans, grew up with fond memories of the old Safari. At the beginning of the year we awaited that ONE national event  — the Safari during Easter [March/April]. Yearly, kids in Europe and the West look forward to Santa Claus, we looked forward to the Safari!”

Indeed, morale at Kasarani yesterday was high. Elsewhere,  on the sidelines of the Wednesday briefings, Phineas Kimathi, the chief executive officer of the WRC Safari Rally Project and also President of the Kenya Motor Sports Foundation (KMSF), said he was receiving nothing other than unfettered support from the Government (of Kenya).

“This has enabled me to meet, well ahead, all FIA deadlines regarding this project; the latest being the ‘interim report’ [the document includes formation of committees, organisation structure and a proposed itinerary for the 2019 Safari Rally).

Gurvir Singh Babra, the clerk of the course for the 2019 Safari WRC Candidate Event

Gurvir Singh Babra, the clerk of the course for the 2019 Safari WRC Candidate Event

Kimathi said his secretariat was bubbling with confidence, brushing aside local feelings that it was struggling with financial and equipment hurdles. He said: “Nothing insurmountable. We are coping perfectly. It’s even brighter that the Government systems have now assured us that the project has been availed Sh250,000 from the [national] Sports Fund.”

No wonder that on Thursday morning, a large team of route planners, technical and management staff will be able to move to Naivasha, 100 kilometres west of the capital, on the floor of the Great Rift Valley for frantic work on this year’s Candidate Event and proposed future WRC Safari Rally “Theatre of Operation”. The transport, including helicopters, and the accommodation costs would have been dampening, indeed, were the state of lack of finance still existing.

Peter Kaberia, Principal Secretary for State Department for Sports Development, Ministry of Sports and Heritage speaks with Phineas Kimathi (left) and Ian Campbell

Peter Kaberia, Principal Secretary in the State Department for Sports Development, Ministry of Sports and Heritage speaks with Phineas Kimathi (left) and Iain Campbell

A “teaser” — film clip — shown at Kasarani of past Safaris, especially of the pre-2003 WRC era, awed spectators with the sheer skillfully sporting adventure; tricky turns, blind brows, dust, heat, speed, water, floods, mud, glorious mud on gloriously beautiful Kenyan landscape. And,  President Uhuru Kenyatta imploring the FIA to look at Kenya’s bid favourably.

“The Safari, many of you would know was a major highlight of Kenya’s life. We want to bring it back to that status. The Government will work together with the organisation to see that the Safari is back on the [WRC] international circuit,” said President Kenyatta.

Yesterday did not go without some drama as Jarmo Lehtinen, who was supposed to be accompanying Campbell at Kasarani, was for the entire day holed up in Abu Dhabi, Qatar. Because of a brief staff strike at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Lehtinen’s flight could not leave Qatar on time.

The WRC Safari Rally Project technical and management staff attending yesterday's interaction at Kasarani over preparations for the 2019 Safari a WRC Candidate Event

The WRC Safari Rally Project technical and management staff attending yesterday’s interaction at Kasarani over preparations for the 2019 Safari a WRC Candidate Event

However, the Fin, a veteran navigator with 15 WRC victories as co-driver to former Ford and Citroën star Mikko Hirvonen was expected in Nairobi later in the evening and to be on the entourage to Naivasha this morning. Apart from Naivasha, organisers will also be taking Campbell and Lehtinen to areas in Kajiado, the “Plan B” route of the organisers.

Kimathi said the project’s committee were boosted will be boosted by the input from Campbell and Lehtinen and that Kenya’s chances against other rallies, eg Rally of Japan, bidding for WRC status would improve.

“Right now our visitors are working with and for us; it is not like they have come to mark our score card, like they do in CAF (African Football Confederation) of Fifa (Federetation of International Football Associations) hosting bids. We have set a route that will be a subject of evluation by the expertsng  and they will tell us wherther it will be suitable for 2019 and going forward.

“Hopefully our organisation will get even better, FIA assesment comes later,” Kimathi said. Indeed, an FIA delegate, Michelle Mouton, herself a past iconic Safari driver, will visiting the country next month.

This year’s Safari will start with a for “mass spectator” planned Super Special Stage at the expansive lands of Kasarani where a dual lane will pit two competing cars on an exciting 2.5km course. Pius Metto, the recently appointed Director General of Sports Kenya who administer the sports centre said: “We are delighted to host Safari and we shall do whatever it takes to run a good event that pleases out visitors and Kenyans.”

The proposed route for this year’s Candidate event around Naivasha include:

  • Day 2 – July 6: Soysambu (27km). Depart Perc ferme00hrs. Fast and graded farm roads teeming with wildlife plumes. A specially created spectator zone towards the end
  • Day 2 – July 6: Elementaita (23km). Short liaison of 5km will see the cars head to the 23km stage. Technically demanding roads over classic savannah grasslands promise to be excitingly quick and kinder to cars. In the Delamere Estate, this will be closed to traffic but will have a spectator stage towards the end
  • Day 2 – July 6: Sleeping Warrior (27km). Longest of the 2019 Safari transversing over and around volcanic vista that characterize the vista of the floor of the Rift Valley. Narrow roads through resident acacias and the inevitable wild pig holes that can punish errant drivers. Cars will then head back to service at the Naivasha Sopa Resort. First car will then leave for the service park at 11.00hrs and return to Delamere Estate.

In total the cars will tackle six stages on Day 1 before heading back to Naivasha Sopa Resort overnight halt.

Michelle Mouton, coming to Kenya next month as an FIA delegate to observe Kenya's preparation for the 2019 Safari WRC Candidate Event

Michelle Mouton, coming to Kenya next month as an FIA delegate to observe Kenya’s preparation for the 2019 Safari WRC Candidate Event

  • Day 3 – July 7: Malewa Bay (6.2km) 06.00hrs lead car leave overnight perc ferme at Sopa Resort to tackle never-used-before short ‘mickey-mouse’ stage pf square rights and lefts with steep climbs and inclines on abrasive gravelly. Malewa Bay, 38km from Sopa is located off the Moi North Lake Road. The 6.2km stage overlooking Lake Naivasha will provide spectacular rally action for early rising spectators present at the spectator zone from 0700hrs. A short liaison of 4.3km will then take the rally to Loldia – also along the North Lake Road
  • Day 3 – July 7: Loldia (14km) -Upgraded roads cut through bush, the 14km will run over smooth and dusty roads which will favour the brave. Tricky turns and blind brows encompass all that the Safari is known for – dust, heat, speed, and great Kenya landscape. Rally will then head towards Nairobi-Nakuru Highway for the 21km Kigio Conservancy
  • Day 3 – July 7: Kigio (24km) – Running parallel to the Nairobi-Nakuru Highway, third stage of the day, once again never-used-before. Transverses across improved farm roads through conservancy land with unspoilt vistas. Fast sweeping roads ensuring competition rises notch higher albeit throwing caution to the wind. Will bring out the best for spectators present on designated viewing positions. From Kigio cars will head back to Naivasha, proceed along the Moi South road and enter Kedong’ Ranch- opposite the Sopa Resort
  • Day 3 – July 7: Kedong’ (37.33). 0900hrs lead car start longest stage of the 2019 Safari Rally. Stage synonymous with mishaps due to deceiving fast runs over farm roads that hide technical surprises. Rising over 2100 metres above sea level on the shoulders of Mt Longonot. Will test endurance and lasting power of crews over volcanic dust roads. Then 2 km into Sopa of liaison will see the cars go back for the second and most appreciated service of the day.
  • The final section will be the repeat of the Malewa Bay, Loldia and Kigio
  • Award ceremony: Sopa Lodges: Idyllic resort fronted by Lake Naivasha teeming with exotic wildlife and variety of birds

-Additional reporting by Correspondents

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *