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FIA WRC Safari Rally Candidate Event set for July 4-7, 2019

PHOTO/Courtesy ANWAR SIDI

KENYA is set to host the 2019 FIA WRC Safari Rally Candidate Event from July 4 to 7. The location for competitive stages outside the capital, Nairobi, will soon be determined after consultation with the International Automobile Federation Race Delegate, the legendary rallying ace  Michelle Mouton who is due in the country in January next year.

Announcing this, the WRC Safari Rally Project chief executive officer Phineas Kimathi said it will be the first time for the FIA to host a Candidate Event in the African continent, a precursor to the likelihood of the Safari Rally becoming a fully-fledged World Rally Championship round from 2020.

The headquarters of the WRC Safari Rally Project at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani in Nairobi

The headquarters of the WRC Safari Rally Project at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani in Nairobi

Kimathi who is also the Kenya Motorsport Federation (KMSF) was flanked by the organisation’s general manager Mwaura Njuguna while announcing that the new date – a departure from the traditional March — when he unveiled the 2019 KMSF calendar.

The July date was agreed upon after consultation with the WRC Promoter as the only viable window of opportunity during the traditional WRC mid season break for two reasons. The FIA and WRC Promoter will be fully engaged in organising and observing the Safari and secondly, many top class drivers and teams will have the opportunity to ‘recce’ in Kenya to have a feel of things.

“Many drivers would like  to come to Kenya to do  ‘recce’ as they will have come from South America as well as the WRC Promoter  being available to come and observe the Safari,” said Kimathi.

The FIA President Jean Todt (left), a former Safari Rally ace, in Nairobi with Kenya Motor Sports Federation boss, Phineas Kimathi, after launching the WRC Safari Rally Project offices. (Below) Jodt with with Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta who is backing a Safari return to the World Rally Championship fold

The FIA President Jean Todt (left), a former Safari Rally ace, in Nairobi with Kenya Motor Sports Federation boss, Phineas Kimathi, after launching the WRC Safari Rally Project offices. (Below) Jodt with with Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta who is backing a Safari return to the World Rally Championship fold

He also clarified that the current three weeks difference between hosting WRC rounds is a fixture which cannot be altered and it would be hard to run the Safari during Easter holidays which don’t have a fixed date.

“Mouton will inspect the three blocks of the route around Kajiado, Nanyuki, Naivasha and Nakuru; and will recommend accordingly after the end of her visit,” said Kimathi.

Kimathi said that  the WRC Safari  is a Kenyan presidential project which was mooted by the Jubilee Government in 2013 and  all organisational work have been going on smoothly. The Government signed an agreement with the WRC Promoter to run a Candidate Event leading to a three-year commitment which will be reviewed in 2022.

He has been undergoing orientation programmes at the WRC Promoter headquarters  in Germany as the first African CEO to organize a WRC Candidate Event.

Safari experience: In her heyday, Michelle Mouton of France was one of the leading competitors in the Safari Rally. Next January, she comes to Kenya to assess the route for a 2019 WRC Candidate Event

Safari experience: In her heyday, Michelle Mouton of France was one of the leading competitors in the Safari Rally. Next January, she comes to Kenya to assess the route for a 2019 WRC Candidate Event

“The journey to return to the WRC has been long but we have had many supporters,” said Kimathi. “I know many countries are bidding to enter the WRC but Africa has been behind us.”

Kimathi also announced changes in the 2019 National Competition Rules (NCRs) meant to align Kenya to current FIA rules. He said KNRC organisers will create spectator friendly areas with the introduction of ‘power stage’ concept in 2019, “thereby providing better access to the drivers and media.

“The ‘power stage’ is a new concept introduced by the FIA and it is held either in the first or last stages basically to motivate drivers where the winner is usually given bonus points. Drivers will earn additional five points for winning the ‘power stage’ and bring the rally more to the people,” said Kimathi.

He added that the KMSF Board approved changes to the 2019 Rally Sport Sporting Regulations to scrap the National B13 class introduced in 2018.

“This is to align the KMSF with the FIA classes for the homologated cars. The distance between refuels has also been increased from 80 KMS to a 100 KMS maximum, to enable organisers to explore longer and vast stages KMSF have revised the percentage of participation to be eligible for championship from 75% to 80%, this is to encourage the competitors to participate in more events.”

Manvir Baryan in action around Naivasha during last year's Safari Rally pbserved by FIA delegates

Manvir Baryan in action around Naivasha during last year’s Safari Rally 0bserved by FIA delegates

Proposals to improve the current Rally Raid Championship were approved by the Board, Kimathi added.

“A general outline for Sporting Regulations to improve the route design was agreed. Details of the route to be used during each day of the race are now defined. A strategy and action plan for the future of drifting was also presented for implementation by 2020, which outlined the intention to form a KMSF Drifting Commission for 2019 to support in developing grassroots programmes, by 2020 over and above improving the quality and organizational level of the Drifting sport.”

Following the acceptance of the perception of Hill Climb events in 2018, the introduction of new Hill climb Commission was approved, to prepare for 2019 Championship:

The Board also agreed to set up a Developing Motorsports Grassroots and Budget Racing Committee to be headed by legendary rally driver Azar Anwar to look into a cheaper/affordable car class that can be; homologated through the KMSF in order to promote motorsport in the grassroots level, in an effort to increase participation in the national championship events.

The introduction of new KMSF appeals court was approved to look into competitors grievances.

-Reported by WRC Safari Rally Project Media Department

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