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Safari Hq abuzz as cars prepare to zoom off Friday

IT is the eve of the 2019 Safari Rally and its headquarters in Nairobi is buzzing with activity as it welcomes observers and assistance from international experts ahead of the start on Friday.

This year’s Safari is a World Rally Championship (WRC) Candidate Event, and if well run and it satisfies world organizers, the round of this year’s African Rally Championship (ARC), could get the Safari admittance to the 2020 WRC calendar.

Top: Zimbabwe’s Leroy Gomes transports his Ford car which he will drive at this year’s Safari Rally, an African Rally Championship (ARC) round, starting sixth on Friday at Kasarani, as No. 101 on the door. Above:

Top: Zimbabwe’s Leroy Gomes transports his Ford car which he will drive at this year’s Safari Rally, an African Rally Championship (ARC) round, starting sixth on Friday at Kasarani, as No. 101 on the door. Above: Kenya’s hopefuls in the ARC and Safari triumps will be past Safari winner Baldev Chager

The Government of Kenya, whose President Uhuru Kenyatta, will flag off the starters at the Moi International Sports Center, Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi’s northern suburbs on Friday at 11am, spearheaded establishment of a WRC Safari Rally Project, whose aim is re-gain WRC status which the event previously held until 2002.

The GoK Principal Secretary in the State Department of Sport, Peter Kaberia told a Press conference on Monday morning: “We shall deliver a world class event. Funding and preparations are done.  We have no challenges except for time. We are confident that we will bring back the Safari to world status next year.

Iain Campbell (left) and Safari's Clerk of Course Gurvir Bhabra on Tuesday at the Hq

Iain Campbell (left) and Safari’s Clerk of Course Gurvir Bhabra on Tuesday at the Hq in Kasarani, Nairobi. Photo/ANWAR SIDI

“The Safari is part of our national priority and can’t be discounted.  The Steering Committee has done what’s necessary and it’s all systems go.  We are ready and upbeat that Friday will Be good.”

That will be put to a severe test.

Delegates of the International Motorsport Federation (FIA) are in Kenya to assess the country’s capacity to return the Safari to the WRC; including Michelle Mouton, a former rally driver herself who came second in the 1982 WRC, the FIA team will oversee various facets of Kenya’s preparations for the return to global status.

Signage to areas of operation at Kasarani, and below, the accreditation

Signage to areas of operation at Kasarani on Tuesday and below, the accreditation. Photos/ANWAR SIDI

There will be 51 drivers starting the Safari. The local chief executive officer for the WRC Safari Rally Project, Phineas Kimathi, was meanwhile appreciating international help already in the country assisting the local organising committee and others observing for the FIA — the men and women Kenya has to impress. These included:

Cem Bonvell – (Turkey, Medical delegate)

Michelle Mouton (FRA, FIA Safety delegate)

Chris Birkin – (RSA, FIA Technical Delegate)

Timo Rautianen – (FIN, FIA Sporting Delegate)

Andrew Wheatley – (GBR, FIA WRC Manager)

Alain Ambrosino – (FRA, WRC Expert)

Iain Campbell – (GBR, WRC Expert)

Jarmo Lehtinen – (FIN, WRC Expert)

– Maya Reinikainen (Ambassador for the Safari in Europe)

On Wednesday and Thursday, the drivers will be busy doing test drives, ‘recce’ in rally jargon, on the entire route while their managers and mechanics with be taking their actual competition cars for (checks) ‘scrutineering, at the MISC.

There will also be the Mitsubishi entry and return to rally competition of Nzioka Waita, Chief of staff office of the President of Kenya

There will also be the Mitsubishi entry and return to rally competition of Nzioka Waita, Chief of Staff Office of the President of Kenya

One of the FIA regional vice-Presidents is Kenya’s own Surinder Thatthi, who is in fact this year’s Safari FIA Liaison Officer. He also said on Monday: “The FIA has a great desire to come back to Africa following FIA President Jean Todt’s visit to the country last year. It is evident that FIA is sympathetic to Kenya’s bid on WRC status.  The medical delegate is also very happy and has been working hand in hand with the local medical experts,”

Kimathi said the route has been selected and designed to suit spectators’ needs. “The MISC and Kasarani Stadium are hosting the Safari for the first time and offers Nairobi City County fans an opportunity to watch cars in full-fledged competing [on a 4.50km super special stage tackled immediately after the ceremonial start by President Uhuru].

At Kasarani on Tuesday, Maya Reinikainen, Ambassador for the Safari in Europe

At Kasarani on Tuesday, Maya Reinikainen, Ambassador for the Safari in Europe. Photo/ANWAR SIDI

More spectators are expected on tarmac highway ‘transport’ runs through Roysambu, Kasarani, Githurai, Kenyatta University, Ruiru and into Gatundu South via Kenyatta Road, Theta Hotel, New Rain Restaurant and Coffee Lounge, Kimunyu, Mutomo, Kiganjo … all the way to Mundoro for the start of the competitive Gatamaiyu Forest 12km stage.

“On Saturday, fans from Nairobi and Nakuru can view cars at Soysambu which is 10km from Lanet. Cars will go through the stage twice. Spectators who wish can catch up with the cars at Kedong where the last car should cross the finish at 2pm, ” Kimathi said.

Principal Secretary Peter Kaberia at Press Conference at Kasarani on Monday. He said Government was fully prepared for good organisation of the Safari Rally

Principal Secretary Peter Kaberia at Press Conference at Kasarani on Monday. He said Government was fully prepared for good organisation of the Safari Rally. Photo/ANWAR SIDI

In its WRC heydays, the Safari attracted adequate sponsorship from the private sector, including multi-nationals such as Martini, Marlboro and Immarsat and locals Trust Bank and Kenya Commercial Bank (KBC).

But after dwindling fortunes, the Safari has almost solely relied on invaluable support of KCB whose marketing and communication director Angela Mwirigi said on Monday: “We are proud to be associated with the Safari for the years the country was outside the WRC by supporting the Kenya National Rally Championship (KNRC).”

On Saturday, the cars will restart at 7am from Sopa through to three sections at Soysambu, (23.86km) Elmentaita (15km) and Sleeping Warrior (27.14km) which will be repeated twice for the day’s competitive total of 132km. Sopa will also host Day 2 overnight perc ferme.

Sunday Leg 2 on will take the cars and crews through the last three sections at Malewa (6.3km), Loldia (11.42km) and Kedong’ (38.53km) to be repeated for the day’s competitive mileage of 112km. Kedong is the event’s longest stage while the Kasarani super special is the shortest. The rally will cover a total of 796.86km, of which 262.93km will be competitive.

-Additional reporting by Media Dept, WRC Safari Rally Project

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