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Will Kenya return to WRC status after 2018 Safari Rally?

The last inspection of cars for this year’s Safari Rally will be today at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani Stadium amidst anxiety as to whether the organisation will impress international governing authorities so that they can give it a go ahead to be back on the World Rally Championship calendar by 2020.

Gilles Simon, the FIA (International Automobile Federation) head of technical matters and Olivier Ciesla, the WRC Promoter Managing Director will be in Nairobi and in Naivasha (Rift Valley) area where the rally will run and it will heavily depend on the two men whether Safari organisers, the Government and people of Kenya meet the standards to be relied upon to deliver a world class motor rally.

This year’s Safari, the 66th edition, sees 36 car entries some of which are from Uganda and Tanzania chasing points towards the African Rally Champion of which the Safari is a key event. Kenyans Onkar Rai, Jaspreet Chatthe, Baldev Chager, Manvir Bryan, Carl Tundo, Karan Patel and Jasmeet Chana are joined by Uganda ace Jas Mangat as the main contestants for top five finishes.

It will be a thrilling battle by the leading 10 drivers and victory will be there for anybody’s taking. But how impressive in organisation and whether it will be on an attractive course is all that matters for most people whose desire is for the Safari to regain its previous status, lost in 2002, as the main reference point of the World Rally Championship.

Gilles Simon acts as FIA Technical Director for developing FIA championships and oversees technical solutions, strategy and sporting vision for the organisations. He works in close cooperation with the FIA departments responsible for the global management of motor championships, as well as with the safety department. Oliver Ciesla advises the FIA on viability of events round the world and promotes the WRC.

In a recent visit to Kenya where the FIA President showed a lot of support of the Safari to return to the WRC he warned that Kenya had to work extremely hard. What was displayed to him as firm Government support by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta himself will, however be put under the scrutiny of Simon and Ciesla.

What is dubbed as the WRC Safari Rally (2020) Project has a headquarters based at Kasarani where the Chairman of the Kenya Motor Sports Foundation (KMSF) Phineas Kimathi, a former Safari Rally driver in the WRC days, is chief executive office.

Kimathi said on Tuesday morning that “Gilles Simon, on arriving in Nairobi (Thursday) will go straight to (Naivasha area) to have a feel of the (Safari) route.”

The CEO said Simon will later be joined by Ciesla and that during the Safari, they will spectate the event, sometimes on helicopter. They will also meet organisers, Government officials and corporate heads who are supporting the Safari “for a serious business talk on the event.”

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