Wed 03 Apr 2024

Immersed in the buzz of Safari Rally Kenya

And still, they stood. Patiently. Expectantly. Then, he arrived. President William Samoei Ruto offered a cheery wave as he walked towards the podium at Nairobi’s Kenyatta International Convention Centre.

He wasn’t the one. The one they had been waiting for was wearing his baseball cap back to front with bright blue sunnies completing the ensemble. The word got around. He was here.

“It’s him,” offered one shy fan. Then the noise was cranked up.

“Kalle!”

The champion and – at that point – one-time Safari winner came over and dived straight into selfie mode. The glasses were lifted from the eyes and the smile broadened with every shot. The massed ranks of African rally fans were delighted. More than.

The atmosphere at last week’s Safari Rally Kenya is a special one. It’s different from anywhere else in the world. It starts at shakedown on Wednesday (a day earlier than normal) and then it follows you all the way down the road from Naivasha to Nairobi for the ceremonial start and super special. Whenever a rally car – or any vehicle vaguely involved with the rally – is spotted, the horns start. And don’t stop. The carnival has begun.

And it doesn’t stop all the way through Kasarani and the following three days. The sport is adored in this part of the world and the rally is cherished – especially on its return to a traditional Easter date. A generation has been skipped, but stories of how everything stopped for Easter weekend when the rally cars arrived soon came flooding back.

It’s the same for the crews. The emotion was etched into every finishing face. Getting through this one was a very big deal. The stories would never be forgotten. Especially for Kalle and his newfound friends.

Latvia
Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Italy
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Hungary
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM