NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 13 – The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) President Jean Todt will officially open the WRC Safari Rally Project new headquarters at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani on February 27.
Todt will be appraised on the progress Kenya is making in its bid to return the Safari Rally Back to the World Rally Championship (WRC) by 2020.
The government gazetted two committees – Steering and Organising – last year to roll out a road map towards the WRC status, 15 years since the Safari departed from the 13-rounds series, under the aegis of the WRC Safari Rally Project.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Project and the chairman of the Organising Committee Phineas Kimathi said Todt’s comprehensive itinerary will be released later.
However, his biggest engagement of the day is unveiling the 5000 square foot Safari headquarters at block 8/9 of the main stadium where most pre-Safari events will be held including scrutineering.
This is the third visit by Todt, a great Safari fan and navigator and formerly Chief Executive Officer of Scuderia Ferrari F1 team, to Kenya but the first to meet the motorsports authorities at their own premises for a more comprehensive engagement.
However, Kimathi has been holding talks with Todt, the FIA top brass and the World Championship Media and Commercial rights holder, the WRC Promoter Managing Director Oliver Ciesla for the last two years regarding the Safari’s future.
In 2015 Todt met with President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House Nairobi soon after being appointed the United Nations Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Road Safety where the future of a WRC Safari Rally was discussed.
He returned in December 2016 and held discussions with several senior government officials led by the then Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Sports, Culture and the Arts Richard Ekai.
He expressed his desire to see Africa return to the WRC to give the championship balanced global appeal.
Addressing a press conference then, Todt revealed that Africa is a very key region for the FIA but added the necessary guarantees set by the FIA will have to be met.
Among the issues Todt underscored on Kenya were road safety as well as the deviation from the hustle and bustle of public roads to private land rallying.
“If all the processes are followed we see no reason why Kenya cannot make it back to the WRC. So far we are very impressed with the Kenya National Rally Championship as one of the best run events in Africa,”
“But the new standards of rallying must be respected. What was possible back then when events ran on open roads is not possible these days with the population. Rallies must now be organised on closed roads,” Todt said.
“We are happy that the Government of Kenya through President Kenyatta has been very supportive of the process but reiterates the process will have to be ongoing,” Todt said
Kimathi said this year’s Africa Rally Championship Safari will be run on closed roads and private farms with special attention paid on safety as per FIA set standards.
The Organising Committee has already identified sections which will be graded for a smooth ride for competitors.