NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 27 – The legendary Safari Rally has been drafted back to the World Rally Championship Circuit for the first time since 2002 and will be competed on in 2020, world governing body FIA announced on Friday.
Kenya which has been lobbying to have the iconic rally back into the FIA books held a candidate event earlier this year which was closely monitored by officials from the FIA, and they were impressed with what they saw hence seeing Kenyan motorsport bounce back to the international scene.
“The addition of Kenya’s iconic Safari Rally, one of global motorsport’s legendary contests, means the WRC returns to Africa, the world’s second largest continent by size, for the first time since 2002,” a statement from FIA read on Friday.
The Safari was notorious for being the WRC’s toughest round as open-road gravel tracks, unpredictable weather and a route three times longer than other rallies created hazards unmatched elsewhere.
It has evolved to fit the modern-day WRC, but its character remains with challenging closed dirt roads, superb picture-postcard scenery and exotic wildlife.
The East African event will form the championship’s eighth round on 16 – 19 July 2020.
The government had heavily invested in Kenya’s candidature for this year’s event which was crucial in seducing FIA to have the rally back into their books.
“I want to take this opportunity to thank the President of the International Automobile Federation, Mr. Jean Todt, the World Rally Championship Promoter Mr. Oliver Ciesla, the Chairman of the Kenya Motorsports Federation, Mr. Phineas Kimathi and the Directors and Technical teams, for working with my Ministry of Sports, Culture and Heritage through the World Rally Championship Safari Rally project, to deliver this iconic event that forms part of our national heritage,” President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a statement.
He added; “My Administration will continue to work with the relevant bodies to ensure that the 2020 Safari Rally and successive events thereafter, are hosted successfully.”
It is the first time the WRC has included six continents – Europe, North America, South America, Asia, Africa and Australasia – in its 48-year history. Not since 1999 have Africa and Asia appeared side-by-side in the fixture list.
The Safari was admitted to the prestigious International Automobile Federation (FIA) World Rally Championship (WRC) in 1973, but relegated to the Africa Rally Championship in 2002.