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‘We know Safari fate in 6 weeks’ time’ – Kimathi; ‘Kenya and East African passion and support plays in the big league,’ – Ciesla

THE waiting is with bated breath; whether after the recent running of the Safari Rally as a “Candidate Event” the organisation impressed enough for the East African event to be included in next year’s World Rally Championship (WRC) calendar.

And everyone is asking. Kenya operates a full-time WRC Safari Rally Project, a bid to return the event to world championship status. The FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) will make the decision. The Safari Rally Project chief executive officer, Phineas Kimathi, was obliged to answer to numerous Press enquiries.

Top: Winner of this year’s Safari Rally, Baldev Singh Chager and, above, runners-up Carl “Flash” Tundo in the closing stages of the event at Kedong’, Naivasha on the Great Rift Valley

Top: Winner of this year’s Safari Rally, Baldev Singh Chagerr and, above, runners-up Carl “Flash” Tundo in the closing stages of the event at Kedong’, Naivasha on the Great Rift Valley

He told one, Kenya Television Network (KTN) News, a few days ago: “Kenya will know whether the Safari Rally will be re-granted WRC status in six weeks’ time.” Kimathi sounded so optimistic as to start looking ahead, planning and predicting a changed atmosphere in Kenya motorsport, saying:

“Once the Safari Rally gets back its WRC status, the events will be receiving viewership of over 850 million people globally, thus brands will be up to sponsor WRC teams for massive visibility.”

At second from left, Michele Mouton, a past Safari Rally and World Rally Championship ace driver, now safety delegate of the FIA, in one of her previous visits to observe Safari preparedness for world-class competition

At second from left, Michele Mouton, a past Safari Rally and World Rally Championship ace driver, now safety delegate of the FIA, in one of her previous visits to observe Safari  preparedness for world-class competition

He was of the opinion that people who had been working with him for over for close to two years and many more who supported the project closer to the staging of the 2019 ‘Candidate Event’ two weeks’ ago had done a ‘marvelous job’.

He said: “The [Safari] organisation has ‘upped’ rally safety standards, especially in the 2019 WRC Safari Rally Candidate Event. Thus it’s more likely than not we shall be granted re-entry to WRC status.”

The ‘Candidate Event’ took place between Jul 6 and 8 in Nairobi, Kiambu and Nakuru counties under the observation of many FIA delegates and Olivier Ciesla the managing director of WRC Promoter, the commercial contractors of the WRC.

Olivier Ciesla (third from right), managing director of WRC Promoter at the post-Safari Rally Press conference for podium finishers at rally headquarters, Sopa Lodge, Naivasha

Olivier Ciesla (third from right), managing director of WRC Promoter at the post-Safari Rally Press conference for podium finishers at rally headquarters, Sopa Lodge, Naivasha

At the Safari finish and awards presentation Ciesla’s comments had a hint at the possible WRC future of the Safari when he said:

“It’s [Safari bid] a big achievement also for us as a Championship, to have this prominent brand, the Safari Rally, back in our championship. The level of engagement, passion and support for the rally and the WRC by Kenya and the whole of East Africa undoubtedly plays in the top league; and thanks very much for this [organisation.]”

So now everyone awaits the verdict. And, meanwhile, Kimathi expresses the hopes: “When WRC teams come to Kenya, it is estimated that they bring in an approximate equivalent of Sh 3 billion in foreign exchange currency.”

The 2019 Safari Rally winner Baldev Singh Chager and, below, Phineas Kimathi (right), chief executive officer of the WRC Safari Rally Project talks in a television show in Nairobi

Above, the 2019 Safari Rally winner Baldev Singh Chager and, below, Phineas Kimathi (right), chief executive officer of the WRC Safari Rally Project talks in a television show in Nairobi

Kimathi concludes that it was a worth public investment to work on the Safari returning to WRC status. “Kenya’s return of the Safari Rally to WRC status was Jubilee Government’s manifesto in 2013. The Government donated Sh 450 million toward the 2019 Safari Rally Candidate Event. The efforts will pay back that in the short and make more in the long term.”

-Additional reporting by the Media Dept, WRC Safari Rally Project

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