Government backs return of Safari Rally to World Rally Championship

By ronnie evans
Dec 13, 2016
  • FIA President Jean Todt, a former rally driver is keen to see Safari Rally back in the World Rally Championship. (Photo by Shutterspeed)

Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Sports, Culture and the Arts Richard Ekai pledged the government’s support to Kenya Motorsports Federation (KMSF) in its bid to return the Safari Rally back into the highly prestigious World Rally Championship circuit by 2019.

Ekai was speaking during a press briefing in Nairobi that was attended by Federation Internationale de Automobile (FIA) President Jean Todt who was the chief guest.

Todt has been in the country since Monday to hold high level discussions on the future of the Safari Rally on top other patent matters surrounding the development of motorsports in Kenya. Ekai revealed that government will provide KMSF with Ksh.100 million that will be channeled towards next year’s Safari Rally.

With it being an African championship, the funds would be able to propel it to international standards so that in 2018, it will be considered as a potential World Rally Championship circuit event under supervision from the FIA.

“The Safari Rally bid is a government project and has the support of President Uhuru Kenyatta. Proper financial, material and logistical support will be discussed at inter-ministerial level through laid down protocol,” Ekai concluded.

Todt keen to have Safari Rally back to WRC

Todt, a former Safari Rally co-driver of Peugeot rally team, said that he would like to see the Safari Rally back in the World Rally Championship. To achieve that status, it would have to be determined by the World Rally Championship Promoter that is the official commercial rights holders of this global event.

It has a cumulative global television reach of 755 million people in over 300 television stations across 150 countries which figuratively would be a boost if the competition came to Kenya.

Moreover, Todt said that FIA aspires to use the Safari Rally to sensitize people about road safety in Africa as part of its mobility responsibility. "It is unacceptable to have over 17,000 road accidents including 3000 deaths in Kenya annually," lamented Todt who is attending a global seminar at the United Nations headquarters in Gigiri as the special envoy on road safety today.

KMSF President Phineas Kimathi outlined the progress the federation has achieved since June this year when he attended the FIA Sports Conference in Turin, Italy. He said that FIA had restored financial grants to the KMSF to the tune of Ksh.17 million annually for training of technical officials and purchase of World Rally Championship standard communication system.

Kimathi also attended the FIA Governing Council meeting in Vienna, Austria early this month where he delivered the government’s commitment letter to the FIA. He also held discussions with top FIA officials and major manufacturers who all agreed the World Rally Championship required an event in Kenya to merit being called a truly global event.