Speaking on Tuesday during the launch of the September 12 to 14 showdown that will largely be run in private farms in the outskirts of Nanyuki next weekend with Nairobi and Kiambu enjoying part of the action, world motorsports governing body (FIA) vice-president, Surrinder Thatthi, said organisers have the challenge of meeting WRC standards after failing the test last year.
“When we have a proper rally, then we will have a WRC round. From last year’s experience we didn’t have a (proper) rally. This year they have made great effort to run it in closed roads which is one of the criteria, so it’s a step in the right direction,” the FIA boss said.
“The fact that Nanyuki is far from Nairobi, they (organisers) should consider having the start there as well because world rally cars don’t travel on tarmac for long distances.
“The roads should not be so rough because manufacturers in WRC at the moment don’t want to build a special car for Safari Rally,” Thatthi added.
The veteran Kenyan motor sport administrator advised; “We should also have enough accommodation around the venue of about 1,500 participants. The 2016 calenderer has already been published so I don’t see us joining but if we run a successful candidate (rally) next year, then there is a possibility for 2017.”
The chairman of FIA Africa added; “ We should make serious effort and put 2017 a year that we want to achieve WRC status and start working towards that. From the secretariat of African FIA, we will always try to push it and we hope the Kenya Motorsports Federation will deliver.”
The last time Kenya was in the global competition was in 2008 and orgarnisers are working tirelessly to ensure all rules of FIA are adhered to at this year’s Safari.
Defending champion Baldev Chager will be the first off the ramp in the signature event of the local calender that has confirmed 62 entries.
They include five foreign crew in the rumble that is also the seventh round of the Africa Rally Championships and the sixth round of the Kenya National Rally Championship.
Drivers will battle it out in longer competitive sections of about 250km, traversing Nairobi, Kiambu and Laikipia Counties.
As the tradition, the rally will be flagged off by President Uhuru Kenyatta at KICC before heading to Kiambu for the first spectator stage at Migaa Estate which will be part of the seven that will be repeated to meet 13 competitive sections.
The second spectator stage will be at Batian View in Nanyuki that will be repeated over the three days to cover 3.5km before the cars head to the closed circuit private farm stages.
After tackling the rigours of the section, they will head to the second service at Solio after the drivers have covered 175km.
The event will also see the return of Ian Duncan who took a break after Eldama Ravine with his Mitsubishi EVO 9 to chase the crown he last won in 1994 when the event was part of the WRC.
Kisumu based Jaspreet Chatthe will be hoping to extend his lead ahead of closest challenger and defending champion Chager with the Proton pair of Carl ‘Flash’ Tundo and Alastair Cavenagh becoming the first local drivers to parade S2000 cars in the Safari.
Chatthe the Tanzanian ARC champion will be battling for the continental honours with Safari debutant Gary Chaynes of Ivory Coast and 2012 continental crown holder, Essa Mohammed of Zambia.
Chaynes is currently on the driving seat in the ARC standings with 101 points, eight ahead of Essa while Chatthe is third on 58.
Another foreigner to watch is Jas Mangat from Uganda who will be making a comeback with his Mitsubishi EVO 10.
Rivalry will be renewed in the 2WD where defending champion Dennis Mwenda, Nadeem Kana and Leo Varese who is the current leader will battle it out for the top honors.
“We went to compete in Uganda to test the car and we managed to win which gave us confidence and feel the new suspension. We are happy with the preparation as we seek to defend the title.
“This will be my third time to compete in Nanyuki and it’s a nice place to rally. We will drive confidently faster because we will be running in private farms knowing we are not going to meet spectators or motorists, so we still believe we are the quickest and the team to beat,” Mwenda fresh from winning the Pearl of Africa Rally Championship in Uganda declared.