New-look Safari eyes WRC return

Kenya’s legendary Safari Rally took another step in its bid to return to the FIA Word Rally Championship today (Friday) when the 2018 event started in capital city Nairobi.

WRC Promoter managing director Oliver Ciesla (bottom) spoke at this morning’s start ceremony and flagged off cars as they headed north towards Lakes Naivasha, Elmenteita and Nakuru, around which the action is based.

The Safari last featured in the WRC in 2002 but organisers, with financial backing from the Kenyan government, have revamped the event with the target of reclaiming a slot on the calendar for 2020.

Traditional open road competitive sections have been scrapped in favour of smoother private estate roads,and a comprehensive safety plan has been put in place to support a rally run to a more familiar WRC format.

Phineas Kimathi, chairman of the Kenya Motor Sports Federation, is an experienced Safari competitor and chief executive of the newly-launched WRC Safari Rally Project, whose Nairobi headquarters were opened by FIA president Jean Todt last month.

“We’re very excited to see the support of WRC officials at this year’s rally,” he told wrc.com. “The government supports our plans and it’s my target to make sure Kenya becomes the next host of a WRC event in Africa.

“Kenya is a big motorsport nation and we have a dedicated office with 10 full-time staff. We are ready and the government is ready to return to the WRC."

The government has pledged US$ 2.5 million towards the project and president Uhuru Kenyatta outlined his support to Todt during his visit.

The rally is scheduled to cover nine special stages and more than 200km of competition before Sunday lunchtime’s finish. Heavy rain in recent days is expected to make conditions extremely difficult.

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