Part 2 – Kenya Special
Welcome to your second dose of rallying goodness. First, let us recognise that Kenyans are as talented in motorsports almost as much as they are in athletics.
The likes of Patrick Njiru, Ian Duncan, and Tejas Hirani prove this point effortlessly, yet Kenya no longer hosts the World Famous Safari Rally, which shattered the egos of world class drivers while proving our home- grown heroes could go toe to toe with the best.
The latest news from a rallying insider is that Kenya is set to return to the 2017 African Rally Championship status following a recent meeting of members of the Confederation of African Motorsports (CAMS).
Kenya withdrew from the ARC two years ago as a result of financial constraints but last week in Ethiopia, Phineas Kimathi the chairman of Kenya Motor Sports Federation put in a request for reinstatement, which was widely supported. This will serve as a stepping-stone to Kenya’s return to full WRC status.
Kenya last hosted a WRC event in 2002. The earliest Kenya can return to the World Series would be in 2018 after staging a candidate in 2017 as per the FIA rules.
The event has to be approved and passed by the FIA Stewards before further steps are taken. The two-year absence from the international calendar requires Kenya to run a candidate event under FIA regulations and observation before it can be included in the ARC again.
Surinder Thatthi, one of the seven Vice Presidents of the FIA, says: “For a full WRC event, the host nation must meet basic costs to cater for permit fees, WRC Timing tracking systems and promoter’s fees amounting to almost Sh 69 million, among other things.
Extra money will then be needed for the running of the event with full safety and all the WRC requirements in mind. The total cost would be around Sh150m per year.’’
However, everyone is optimistic as both the FIA and WRC promoter are anxious to have the Safari Rally back for the unique images and hostile terrain that is currently lacking in the WRC.
The only hiccup could be the failure by the government and KMSF to take the opportunity with the seriousness it deserves and let it slip through.
On the part of KMSF, there are WRC standards to be adhered to while the government’s role is to make sure all permits and advantages are allowed to put Kenya back on the map.
Tentatively, Kenya has been allocated a date in March next year to host the ARC event. Currently, Kenyan enthusiasts are languishing in the desert when it comes to motorsports, with the local rally circuit and karting as the only means to blow off steam.
We once had a racetrack in Embakasi, but currently no discussion on a proper racetrack ever being built within our borders is being had, which is a darn shame. Kenyans love cars, and with a stable economy they have the potential to reap huge profits from the motoring industry.
Furthermore, a well-organised and mature motorsports scene flows over to the average driver. As we can already see, people are already purchasing high performance sports cars but with nowhere to thrash them, public roads in the dead of night will have to do.
This is not only dangerous but also socially irresponsible by the government. A dedicated motorsports facility is as important to modern planning as a public park.
A racetrack allows not only the general populace somewhere to practice and hone their skills but motorsports also serve as cultural events, where no matter your race or religion, the love of petrol fumes and screaming engines transcends the differences and brings people together. We desperately need that as a country seeing as it is that we are historically prone to bouts of tribal violence.