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‘We have 2020 WRC Safari, if we do right in July’, says Kimathi

“UNLESS we shoot ourselves in the foot,” said WRC Safari Rally Project chief executive officer Phineas Kimathi from Geneva on Saturday night, “the Safari will be on the 2020 WRC calendar.” Kimathi was commenting on earlier excitement circulating online that the Safari would definitely make a return to the World Rally Championships (WRC).

Kimathi who is attending FIA (Federation Internationale Automobile) WRC business in Switzerland explained: “The events of the last few days included a report by the [commercial] WRC Promoter on how well or not Kenya has met the conditions for returning the Safari to the WRC fold.

Top: The Safari in the World Rally Championship era … Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen’s Peugeot 206 WRC at a deep Great Rift Valley river crossing; some dust .. a splash and a brow jump... Above: For July’s 2019 Safari WRC Candidate event, Gatamaiyu Forest has a mist, slippery red soil and mystery awaiting the drivers on a rarely ventured rally stage West of Gatundu South. (2) Photos:ANWAR SIDI/WRC Safari Rally Project

Top: The Safari in the World Rally Championship era … Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen’s Peugeot 206 WRC at a deep Great Rift Valley river crossing; some dust .. a splash and a brow jump… Above: For July’s 2019 Safari WRC Candidate event, Gatamaiyu Forest has a mist, slippery red soil and mystery awaiting the drivers on a rarely ventured rally stage West of Gatundu South. (2) Photos:ANWAR SIDI/WRC Safari Rally Project

“His report gave Kenya a big tick [mark], for fulfilling everything required of us in the last year or so; except one. That is, he must be satisfied that we successfully run the 2019 Safari Rally WRC Candidate event [on July 5-7 in Nairobi, Kiambu and Nakuru counties].

“And that is what we have embarked on and we are going to pull it off. The feedback we are getting here in Geneva is music to our ears; additional motivation for the hard work we are already doing at home.” Kimathi will be back in Nairobi on Monday and promised to update the Kenyans and the world in general, further of the Safari Rally Project.

Michelle Mouton (left) is welcomed to familiar grounds where she competed in Safari’s WRC days. But this time she was for assesing whether the Safari Rally can return to the world championship roster

Michelle Mouton (left) is welcomed to familiar grounds where she competed in Safari’s WRC days. But this time she was for assesing whether the Safari Rally can return to the world championship roster. Photo: ALVIN KIBET

A further Kenyan morale booster was Kimathi — the President of the Kenya Motor Sports Federation and former leading Kenya National Rally Championship and Safari Rally driver — being elected to sit on the FIA’s Rally Commission. Kenyans already had the news since Wednesday.

Meanwhile back at the Government of Kenya-propelled WRC Safari Rally Project headquarters at Moi International Sports Centre [MISC], Kasarani, activity towards the Safari Rally WRC Candidate event stepped up. Organisers are trying to polish up the course of rally that begins with a proposed spectacular spectator-friendly 2km circuit special stage on the premises of MISC where over 60,000 spectators are expected on the opening day.

Above: A route planner’s SUV bumps over a section in Kendong’, Naivasha in Nakuru County where, also below, most of the 2019 Sari Rally WRC Candidate Event will take place, July 5-7. Photos:ANWAR SIDI/WRC Safari Rally Project

Above: A route planner’s SUV bumps over a section in Kendong’, Naivasha in Nakuru County where, also below, most of the 2019 Sari Rally WRC Candidate Event will take place, July 5-7. Photos:ANWAR SIDI/WRC Safari Rally Project

Then the cars go into Kiambu County through Gatundu South to Mundoro in the West, to tackle an interesting 13-kilometre Gatamaiyu Forest stage [potentially wet and slippery] to come out at ‘Soko Mjinga’ on the Nairobi-Naivasha main highway. The cars then transport to Sopa Lodge, on Naivasha lakeside, service park for the rest of the Safari Day 1 foray.

The FIA and the WRC have so far twice sent to Kenya technical delegations to assist the candidate event organisers. The last included former rallying female icon Michelle Mouton who participated in previous Safaris during the WRC [between 1973 -2002] days. French national Mouton, the WRC Safety Delegate visited Kenya to evaluate the safety aspect of the forthcoming an event.

Rauno Aaltonen in an Opel Ascona through a dry and dusty stage in the WRC Safari Rally days

Rauno Aaltonen in an Opel Ascona through a dry and dusty stage in the WRC Safari Rally days

After covering almost every centimeter of a rally route she gave her recommendations one of which was to maintain the past Safari character of ‘toughness’, of course within the limits of safety.

She had said: “ I am here to look and decide where is safe and who is safe, using my experiences from when I was a driver. Checking on whether the entire safety plan is in place.”

Above: President Uhuru Kenyatta’s (right) enthusiasm and support for the Safari Rally return was firm from the word go, making a personal appeal to FIA President Jean Todt over two year’s ago. Below: Phineas Kimathi (left) the WRC Safari Rally chief executive officer addresses secretariat and organising officials at Kasarani

“Her input is very important,” said Kimathi then, adding, “as it will help us organise a successful Candidate event; a final dry run ahead of a possible 2020 WRC Safari.” The route planners, in their revised plans are trying as much as possible to map out a tough course.

The organisers said Mouton was impressed by the Nairobi “Super Special Spectator Stage,” at Kasarani “where she also recommended a bit of ‘tweaking’, including a roomy ‘launching run’ for two cars running side-by-side at the opening sector of the stage.”

-Additional reporting by Media Dept, WRC Safari Rally Project

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