Kenyan organizers planning a roaring comeback for Safari rally in 2021

Written By: Bernard Okumu
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World Rally Championship safari rally chief executive officer, Phineas Kimathi (second from left) explains a point to Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala during an inspection tour at the rally’s Naivasha Service Park on August 10, 2020. The CS expressed satisfaction with the work progress. Photo/MACHARIA MWANGI

 

Kenyan organizers of the World Rally Championship, Safari Rally leg,  are upbeat of hosting a successful event in 2021.

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Safari Rally returns as a leg on the prestigious 18 round WRC circuit after an 18 year hiatus. The race was originally set to be held July 2020 but was postponed to 2021 following the global outbreak of Corona Virus pandemic.

The organizers are leaving nothing to chance ahead of the race set for July in  Naivasha. WRC Safari Rally chief executive officer Phineas Kimathi lauded the governments input in ensuring that the safari rally makes a roaring comeback.

“I would like to thank the government for demonstrating their commitment, and I’d like to also thank the Cabinet Secretary for Sports Hon. Amina Mohamed for her leadership and guidance to make sure we have all the necessary support,” Kimathi said.

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WRC has since confirmed Safari Rally in the first draft of its 2021 calendar ratified by the FIA World Motor Sport Council midyear to provide a first look of what to expect in the 2021 season.

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Meanwhile, World rally drivers are looking forward to next year’s WRC Safari Rally Kenya with great expectations.

Legendary drivers described Kenya’s adventurous terrain and wildlife as exciting features for the 2021 FIA World Rally Championship season.

Nine- times World Rally Champion Sebastian Loeb, who is the only active driver to have tasted the rigours of Safari in 2002 when he finished sixth, said:

“For me, I have amazing memories of Safari with the monkeys and giraffes as well as helicopters flying over each car. For us, it was like an adventure like no other.”

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Six-time World Champion Sebastien Ogier who is likely to shelve his 2020 retirement plans to compete next year’s season said on his part:

“If we look at the past, it’s (Safari) always been something very unique in the calendar. But even today it may not be as different as it used to be, I still expect something exciting and challenging.”

Ogier won the World Rally Drivers’ Championship six times, in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

With 48 victories in the World Rally Championship and 6 consecutive titles, he is the second most successful WRC driver, after former Citroën WRC teammate and namesake Sébastien Loeb with 9 titles.

 

WRC Champion and leader Ott Tänak, currently competing for Hyundai WRC remarked:

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“Safari is something very unique and special. The element of giraffes and elephants will add some more zest to the event next year and the roads as well.”

Just three rounds had been held in Monte Carlo, Sweden and Mexico before the virus struck, and a reworked 2020 calendar released by FIA will see the hosting of   at least eight rounds later this year, with five events scheduled between September and November.

Rally Estonia, a new fixture on the WRC calendar, heralded the return of the Rally action on 4-6 September 2020  with the Turkey rally (24-27 September) and Germany (15-18 October) set to follow.

 

DRAFT 2021 WRC CALENDAR AS AT JUNE

Monte Carlo-Tarmac

Finland-Gravel

Portugal-Gravel

Sweden-Snow

Kenya-Gravel

Spain-Tarmac

Italy-Gravel

Japan-Tarmac

Australia-Gravel

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