The iconic Safari Rally is set to return to the World Rally Championship (WRC) series next year after the 2020 event was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The governing body for world motor sport, International Automobile Federation (FIA) announced that Kenya, Japan and New Zealand will return to its calendar replacing events in Corsica, Australia and Spain.
Local stakeholders of the game led by reigning Kenya National Rally Champion Baldev Singh Chager, have expressed optimism ahead of the much awaited sporting extravaganza saying it would be an eye opener to further growth of the sport in Kenya.
“It is an amazing experience because we are looking forward to a massive event. Even though no local will make any dent to the visiting drivers it would be a great feeling competing against the world’s finest. The glory will go to the WRC teams and only little credit will go to the home-based drivers. Their machines are far superior and back up quite phenomenal. Ours is a drop in the ocean but we are equal to the task” Chager affirmed.
During his country’s visit in November to launch the WRC Safari Rally Greening Legacy Project by planting the first of projected 19 million trees at the Kasarani stadium, FIA President Jean Todd lauded the progress made so far by the event organizing committee.
National Championship Premier Class driver Eric Bengi believes the comeback of the fabled Safari Rally to the FIA World Rally Championship(WRC) calendar is a perfect opportunity to reignite local drivers’ talent.
The former KNRC Two Wheel, Division One and Group N Champion also believes racing against the big boys of WRC will trigger the much-needed gusto for locals to attack.
“Safari is such a good thing to happen. Kenya has been ranked highly in the continent for having fantastic drivers. Knowledge transfer is expected to be high with the coming of WRC.I know the foreign drivers will whip us clean but it will be a good learning lesson to all of us. Tapio came here and gave us a shock therapy and we went to train with him” stated Bengi.
The Safari was regarded as one of motorsport’s most prestigious and celebrated events of its time, before departing the championship in 2002.
The seventh round of the FIA World Rally Championship was scheduled on 16 – 19 July and its return to the series for the first time since 2002 was eagerly awaited but has since been confirmed to run from June 24 to 27 of next year.