2019 in Review: Gov’t pulled all stops to ensure Safari Rally returns to WRC


2019 in Review: Gov’t pulled all stops to ensure Safari Rally returns to WRC
Carl “Flash” Tundo won the 2018  ARC Safari Rally which produced surprises after a last minute “sting in the tail” left Onkar Rai’s co-driver Gareth Dawe seriously injured and had to be airlifted to Nairobi Hospital for treatment.

In Summary

  • Kenya will make her much awaited return to the big league of World Rally Championship in July 2020, and rally enthusiasts in the country and the East African in general have been purring in excitement even as plans gather pace about the prestigious Safari.

Kenya will make her much awaited return to the big league of World Rally Championship in July 2020, and rally enthusiasts in the country and the East African in general have been purring in excitement even as plans gather pace about the prestigious Safari.

The history of this amazing rallying experience stretches back to 1953 when the Kenya Safari rally was held for the first time as a coronation ceremony for Queen Elizabeth II, and although that prestige may have suffered a blow during the 18-year- hiatus, Kenya has a chance to reclaim the lost glory as they prepare for the July 2020 showdown.

Regarded as the toughest course in the whole world for its rough gravel terrain, the Safari will form an entertaining leg of the World Rally Championship and will surely test the drivers and the cars to the limits.

Anticipation is already building around the July festival even as drivers get busy into preparations to grace the amazing event.

Former Two-wheel driver and 2016 runner up Alex Lairangi has however expressed concerns over the kind of preparations that the government is putting in place.

“It’s historic for our generation that Safari Rally is back in the WRC but as far by the look of things it’s the spectators who are going to enjoy it more than the drivers,” lamented Lairangi.

Lairangi who dropped from the Nation-wide rally championship for lack of sponsorship after previous sponsor Delight pulled out of the deal, says there is more to be done to ensure Kenya reaps the benefits of having Safari readmitted back to the big league.

“We need to at least have a Team Kenya, that will fly the Kenyan flag in the competition. That would raise our profile and also improve our drivers with regard to international levels,” added Lairangi.

The Kenyan government has been on the forefront in ensuring the Safari is readmitted back to the WRC, but will need to do more with support from other stakeholders to ensure they make the much anticipated comeback worthwhile.

Lairangi a proven beast of the track in his racing days says one of the ways to achieve this is by involving local car assemblers so that they can provide cars or any form of sponsorship to elite drivers to compete in the WRC since it’s a very expensive affair for most self-sponsored drivers.

“We have international companies that are in the WRC and have assembling yards here in Kenya. The government should talk to them so that they can provide cars to drivers to who will race for Kenya. It’s very expensive to sponsor yourself and that’s why drivers who lack sponsors pull out of these championships,” Lairangi points out.

His desire to return the adrenaline wrenching thrill of racing is visible even as he delves into whether we will soon witness him back on the roads.

“I love racing and of course I would love to get back to racing, but funds are a major hindrance. If all goes well, we will be back.”

As the government ramps up preparations for the Safari which will be staged from 16-19th July 2020, Kenyans will hope to roll back the years and witness world class performances as those of Ugandan-born Kenyan Shekhar Mehta who even to date holds the record for most Safari wins having roared home five times including four consecutive wins.

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Story By Alex Kinyua
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