WRC : The Legendary Safari Rally Becomes Official World Rally Candidate Event.
The Safari Rally’s status as a Candidate Rally for the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) is now official, following the signing of the Event Promotion Agreement between the Government of Kenya and its Ministry of Sports, and WRC Promoter.
In the presence of FIA President Jean Todt, Managing Director of WRC Promoter Oliver Ciesla, Ambassador Kirimi Peter Kaberia, the Principal Secretary of the Kenyan Ministry of Sports, and Phineas Kimathi, CEO of WRC Safari Rally Project and Chairman of the Kenya Motor Sport Federation, signed the Agreement in Paris, underlining Kenya’s commitment to returning its legendary event to the WRC.
Ambassador Kirimi Peter Kaberia, who led the Kenyan delegation that included Phineas Kimathi and Surinder Thatthi, the Liaison Officer for the WRC Safari Rally Project, said: “Our Government is very committed to the Safari Rally and we will do everything in our power to make sure this great event is brought back to the WRC. This signing is a major milestone and a day we have looked forward to for a very long time. Arriving at this point is a great pleasure. There is still a lot of work to be done and we will collaborate closely with all parties ahead of next year’s candidate rally to show that Kenya is ready and capable to deliver what is expected.”
Adding to the Ambassador’s comments, Jean Todt said: “This is another milestone in Kenya’s journey to reviving the WRC Safari Rally. There is a lot of intense work to realise this dream because the era we live in now, especially in regard to safety, is very different to the open road Safaris of days gone by. Having had the pleasure of opening the WRC Safari Rally Project’s headquarters earlier this year, and met the members of the Steering Committee, I wish them all much success for their 2019 Candidate Event and will be looking to them to lead the way in both rally and road safety.”
Oliver Ciesla of WRC Promoter concluded: “This agreement reflects our determination to restore a legendary rally to the championship and reinstate Africa to the top table of world rallying after an absence of more than a decade. It has long been a key part of the calendar development strategy to take the WRC back to Africa and fulfil the dreams of our fans to restore this mythical event. A truly global championship requires a presence in the world’s second largest continent and the Kenyan Government has made a huge commitment to re-establish the Safari to its former glory. This is a modern-era Safari. Traditional open-road competitive sections have been replaced by smoother special stages in private estates and conservancies and a comprehensive safety plan is in place to support a rally organised to the current WRC format. That doesn’t mean the challenge is diminished. The gravel roads are demanding and we can also look forward to striking images of African wildlife and stunning landscapes.”
The Coronation Safari, as it was originally known, was born in 1953 to commemorate the coronation of Great Britain’s Queen Elizabeth and, coincidentally, was the same year the FIA launched its first rally series, the FIA European Rally Championship. When the WRC was founded in 1973, the East African Safari - as it was known from 1960 - was a natural candidate for the series and with a long and treasured history as one of the toughest rallies in the world, remained on the WRC calendar until 2002.