The return of the Safari Rally Kenya to the World Rally Championships (WRC) circuit has been pushed to 2021 following agreement between the Government of Kenya, WRC Promoter and the International Automobile Association (FIA) due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Safari Rally
Safari Rally

The Safari Rally was warming up to return to the WRC calendar after meetings last year between the FIA, Kenyan government and the Kenya Motorsports Federation and excitement was already peak with the route already mapped out.

The decision was reached following sustained discussions between the three entities since March 2020 when the coronavirus was declared a global pandemic.

The pronouncement has considered the effect of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on global economies, cross border travel, mass social engagements among other health-necessitated restrictions vis a vis Kenya and associated partners’ commitment to host a successful and monumental event after an 18-year break. The event will now take place at a suitable date to be announced later.

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The positive steps being taken by the Kenyan government will most certainly hold the Safari Rally in good stead as they will give FIA and WRC officials the confidence to simply postpone the rally rather than cancel it altogether.

“We are grateful to the Patron, His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta, for his unwavering support and counsel as we deliberated on the next best steps. We also owe exceptional gratitude to the President of the FIA, Mr. Jean Todt and the WRC Promoter led by Oliver Ciesla for their unyielding support since we commenced engagements to return the Safari Rally to the WRC Circuit,” said CS Amina Mohamed.

“We will continue to prepare for the event as groundworks are already in top-gear and look forward to welcoming rally professionals, teams and enthusiasts to Kenya when the event is re-convened next year. Postponing the event to 2021 was not a simple decision to make, however, we are cognisant of the present global challenges and assure that the Safari Rally will mark a significant part of our country’s history as was intended for the next three years,” added CS Amina Mohamed.

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The Principal Secretary in-charge of sports Joe Okudo assured of the Ministry’s continued financial support to the Project which is a critical aspect of the Government’s legacy. “The coordinating organs responsible for the preparation for the event are already in place and will continue to work until the event is re-convened,” said PS Joe Okudo.

“The organising teams continue to work hard to make sure that we deliver a world-class event. We are at an advanced stage to complete the Service Park located in Nakuru County and are in line with the set completion timelines. We have also completed the Event Safety Plan, Itinerary and Supplementary Regulations all delivered within the given FIA and WRC timelines and will move forward to complete all the requisite arrangements. We encourage the drivers and all stakeholders to keep in touch with the secretariat as we ready ourselves for the new dates.” said Phineas Kimathi, CEO of the WRC Safari Rally Project.

The spread of the coronavirus has continually made it difficult for the new season of the World Rally Championship to continue with several events already postponed as the world limits international travel and sports gatherings.

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The Argentina, Portugal and Italy legs of the Championship have already been postponed to later dates and while many expected the season to restart in Kenya in July, the hopes have now been dashed.

According to the Calendar, the next rally would have been in Finland in August before New Zealand and Turkey in September, Germany in October while Wales and Japan were to close the season in November.