NAIVASHA, KENYA – January 22nd 2021: The Safari Rally in Kenya is set for June 24-27 and organizers are upbeat that the unique round of the 2021 World Rally Championship will grip the imagination of the world like in the days, 18 years ago, when it was rated the toughest and most entertaining of the circuit.
The Safari Rally’s return to the WRC is a Kenya Government commitment in a country where the event has a 68-year-old history. The Minister (called Cabinet Secretary here) in charge of sports today said the country will deliver a world-class event. A former Foreign and Education Minister, Amina Mohamed, said by May, all FIA (International Automobile Federation) regulations on facilities and planning of security, safety, and medical measures will have been complete.
Financial limitations will not cause any fears, she said: “The Government is underwriting the costs, having availed approximately Sh240 million ($2.181m) so far and by the time we are through the event we will have spent upwards of Sh600m ($5.4m). But we shall be getting very good returns; viewership of approximately 1.5 billion people around the world and the general financial benefits to the country far exceeds the expenditure.”
A hub for the operations of the Safari has been built in Naivasha Town, 76 kilometers west of Kenya’s capital Nairobi and inside the Great Rift Valley. There will be a Service Park housing all Safari infrastructure and facilities.
A drill, Wednesday, witnessed spectacular simulation of a medical evacuation due to an accident, and safety and security preparedness. was also displayed.
Minister Mohamed felt confident aid her team of organizers would impress in an FIA evaluation: “This (team) meets WRC standards. In fact, we have surpassed the standards. Actually here today (in the simulated demos) we set new standards and new timings. We are extremely proud of the work we have managed in the (trying) period we’ve had, with the Corona (Covid19) situation, we’ve done extremely well.”
She said, the world Covid19 pandemic notwithstanding, Kenya was hopeful to run a safe event. “The Safari will be conducted on open, not (indoor) confined space. We shall adhere to all health measures and I think everyone will be happy. We are all looking forward, excited that (a WRC) Safari will take place this year and every year after that …”
The Safari was last a WRC event in 2002, exiting the calendar after sanctions over safety and commercial viability. Organizers are happy that the WRC owners, the FIA, and WRC Promoter (commercial company) are looking at the Kenya event with positive expectations. This is at a time when some hitherto-almost-permanent WRC rounds are being ‘axed’ from the calendar. The latest and surprise victim is Rally GB (Great Britain) in Wales after failing to meet financial demands.
Experts already have had a thorough look at the entire proposed route of the Safari, all in areas surrounding Naivasha of the bed of the Great Rift Valley. Rally connoisseurs pass the Safari route as geographically superb, incorporating speed, toughness, beauty, wildlife, and diverse weather.
Nairobi has the setting for a ceremonial start at the downtown square at Kenyatta International Sports Centre and then a thrilling “Spectator Special Stage (SSS)” on expansive grounds of the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, suburbs 13km north of Nairobi.
The cars then transport to Naivasha for what is expected to intense rallying on extremely varied terrain, namely: a ‘Shakedown’ at Loldia with a breathtaking backdrop off Moi North Road, for spectacular spectating; and other special stages include Chui Lodge, Kedong’, Oserian, Elementaita, Soysambu, Sleeping Warrior, Malewa and Hell’s Gate. These are on average between 8.5 km to 33km long.
Source: Gishinga Njoroge, a consultant of international sports coverage, feature writing, and media management
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