•The postponed WRC Safari Rally Kenya was to also double up as the fifth round of ARC and Kenya National Rally Championship 2020.
•Other events affected in the 2020 ARC calendar are the York Rally of South Africa, whose organisers opted out due to logistical challenges and Rwanda Mountain Gorilla Rally that was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic
As a number of organisers make tentative steps towards a possible return to competition worldwide, the fate of the FIA African Rally Championship in 2020 continue to hang in the balance.
The postponed WRC Safari Rally Kenya was to also double up as the fifth round of ARC and Kenya National Rally Championship 2020.
The iconic Safari, initially set for July 16-19, was moved to 2021 following an agreement between the Government of Kenya, WRC Promoter and the International Automobile Association (FIA).
FIA Africa representative Surinder Thatthi said: “With the postponement of Safari to 2021, ARC is also affected and with Safari and Uganda already called off, we have to wait until May 28 when the FIA Rally Commission meets to decide the way forward for the ARC.”
Other events affected in the 2020 ARC calendar are the York Rally of South Africa, whose organisers opted out due to logistical challenges and Rwanda Mountain Gorilla Rally that was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rwanda Mountain Gorilla Rally was the third round of the FIA continental series and was initially set for May 15-17.
Rwanda Automobile Club president, Christian Gakwaya, said the club will work on getting new dates for the event tentatively in October this year.
The next scheduled ARC event after Rwanda is the Zambia International Motor Rally in June.
The 2020 Africa Rally Championship had run only one event; the Rallye Bandama in Ivory Coast.
The withdrawal of Rally South Africa from the championship left the series with only six events of the seven.
Surinder added: “The whole world and our continent included is at risk with this novel virus. Sport has stopped everywhere and it is unfortunate that our return to WRC Safari Rally is effected by this new world order. We have to ensure we don’t endanger any lives by spreading this virus and the Kenya government has made a wise decision.”
Meanwhile, rally drivers reckon that WRC Safari Rally postponement is a blessing in disguise for them.
Multiple former Kenya 2WD champion Leonardo Varese said it is disappointing but quickly added: “We have to live with the fact that the whole world is facing a global situation that is beyond us.”
He said: “2021 will give Kenyan organisers a realistic chance to bring the dream to fruition. Until August, nothing major will happen in my opinion and with all airports closed until early next month, there was not much time either. On the positive side, we have all waited for 18 years, one more is nothing.”
Reigning champion and series leader Baldev Chager observed that postponing event was the right decision and the safest thing to have done.
“Health of all involved is a priority. The world is struggling and all kinds of sports events are hard hit. It’s just how it is and we hope and pray the virus goes away as fast as it came in,’ said Chager who has only entered one WRC Safari in 1998 when he finished15th with Tinu Khan in a Subaru Legacy.
Defending KNRC Division One Navigators’ Champion Victor Okundi said it’s mixed feelings with the postponement because they have been really holding their breath to be part of motorsport history.
“I mean the WRC would be a very big feather on my tiny hat! But at the same time the COVID19 pandemic is worldwide. I was a little apprehensive about how the logistics surrounding such a huge event was going to pan out. It could have been a nightmare reflecting back on the kind of crowds we usually get in the Safari. I remember last year accommodation was a challenge and that was just the candidate event!”