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Weekend event in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley captures high expectations over upcoming Safari Rally

Top: These rally cars at Service Park, Naivasha, ready for the FIA ARC Equator Rally start on Saturday belong to the Kabras Rally Team. Above: Another competition cars off-loads for tomorrow’s action. Pictures/Courtesy WRC Safari Rally Media Department

By GISHINGA NJOROGE

in Naivasha, Nakuru County,  Kenya

KENYAN media is covering an African Rally Championship (ARC) event this weekend but it is the first time in 19 years the buzz created sounds like that of the famous Safari Rally of old.

The Equator Rally, Kenya’s round of the ARC starts on Friday but the theatre of action in Naivasha, Nakuru County on the floor of one of the world’s most famous valleys filled, is with expectation.

At Kenya Wildlife Service Institute (KWSI) scrutineering on Friday: left, the Subaru Impreza of Uganda’s most popular driver Duncan “Kinkankane” Mubiru and Carl “Flash” Tundo’s (Kenya) Volkswagen Polo. Pictures/Courtesy WRC Safari Rally Kenya

At Kenya Wildlife Service Institute (KWSI) Naivasha, scrutineering on Friday: Left, the Subaru Impreza of Uganda’s most popular driver Duncan “Kinkankane” Mubiru and Carl “Flash” Tundo’s (Kenya) Volkswagen Polo. Pictures/Courtesy WRC Safari Rally Kenya

The town is packed. A huge population of motorsport people with cars and equipment that have descended on the environs include those from East Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Going out loud: Kenyan newspapers (above, below and elsewhere) race to capture the rally following population

The Equator is seen by Kenyan populace as nothing more than a pre-amble for the Safari Rally’s return to the world championship since its exit in 2002. The people missed the Safari being on the WRC calendar when following the event was once the nation’s most attractive annual sports happening.

The country’s mood is heavily muted by the prevailing global hazard of COVID-19 but looking forward to at least excitedly following the Safari between June 24-27 sends hopes to millions here.

And the people are more impressed by the Equator Rally appearing “bigger’ than expected; thanks to a local media that has lately upped the ante in the rally’s coverage fueled by upcoming Safari.

The tempo picked up furiously with an evident Press “race for the tape”; in the lead being the mainstream national dailies taking various angles on their stories. They include, in both digital and print categories:

  • The largest circulation ‘Nation’ Media Group
  • ‘The Standard’
  • ‘The Star’
  • The free circulated ‘People Daily’

All leading television stations are relaying excellent daily reports and previews and bent on not giving an in the race for viewership include:

  • ‘Citizen TV’
  • ‘Kenya Television Network’
  • [The national public] ‘Kenya Broadcasting Corporation’
  • ‘Capital FM’ (broadcasting on Facebook)
  • ‘K24’

In the WRC Safari Rally, locals have eyes on their heroes whom they expect will give as much as they get against the world’s best drivers in June. At the weekend’s Equator Rally, all Kenya’s best talent is on parade including national rally champion Baldev Chager and closest challengers Carl Tundo, Onkar Rai, Tejveer Rai, Ian Duncan, Karan Patel, Jasmeet Chana and Eric Bengi.

The Safari Rally story variety in Kenya’s largest media house, ‘Nation’ Media group is wide; including ecological

The Safari Rally story variety in Kenya’s largest media house, ‘Nation’ Media Group is wide; including ecological

Another attraction will be seeing that a few local drivers have acquired fresh vehicles from their normal machines in recent Kenya National Rally Championship (KNRC). In the Equator these will include:

  • Carl Tundo (Volkswagen Polo)
  • Onkar Rai (VW Polo)
  • Tejveer Rai (VW Polo)
  • Amaanraj Rai (Ford Fiesta)
  • Aakif Virani (Skoda Fabia)

The Equator Rally will be run on smooth, rough, treacherous and picturesque terrain inside the Rift Valley, utilizing six stages which will be part of the Safari in June. These are:

  • Elementaita
  • Soysambu
  • Sleeping Warrior
  • Loldia
  • Malewa
  • Kedong’

The world’s biggest rally Service Park has been built in Naivasha, in the wildlife park that houses the Kenya Wildlife Service Institute. It was spectacularly awash with competition cars, back-up vehicles and amenities built around shipping containers.

More Kabras Rally Team activity and Thursday’s scrutineering  in Naivasha

Because of COVID19 restrictions, no spectators will be allowed to go out see the cars in the special stages. To follow they will have to rely strictly on the media reportage and feature writing. And the Kenya Press corps appears to be already delivering. Clearly, the Safari awaits more and bigger coverage

-Gishinga Njoroge, a Project Coordinator for WRC Safari Rally Kenya, is also a Deputy Media Officer

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