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Safari among nine rounds sanctioned for 2021 WRC

The Kenyan round returned to the global series after an 18 -year hiatus but was postponed from July 16-19, 2020 to 2021 due to COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.

In Summary

• Monte Carlo, traditionally the season opener and the all-snow Rally Sweden have been included as well as the season-closing Australian rally.

• Locally, events in the motorsport calendar have been put on hold pending Kenya Motorsport Federation (KMSF) direction.

Carl Tundo in action during the 2019 Safari rally.
Carl Tundo in action during the 2019 Safari rally.
Image: COURTESY

Safari Rally is among nine events that have been confirmed for inclusion in the 2021 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).

The Kenyan round returned to the global series after an 18 -year hiatus but was postponed from July 16-19, 2020 to 2021 due to COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.

Dates and the remaining events of the 2021 WRC Calendar are to be confirmed, according to resolutions made by the global governing body FIA’s World Motor Sport Council (WMSC).

Monte Carlo, traditionally the season opener and the all-snow Rally Sweden have been included as well as the season-closing Australian rally.

Monte Carlo is nevertheless subject to Event Promoter Agreement while Australia has announced a new location, with the same organiser.

The Kenyan Safari is hitherto perceived as the toughest gravel experience on the WRC schedule. The current crop of WRC drivers, save for multiple former champion Sebastien Loeb, are yet to experience the toughness of the Safari. Loeb took part in the 2002 Safari edition which was the last WRC to be held on Kenyan soil.

At the close of the first FIA eConference, members of the World Motor Sport Council convened remotely from locations across the globe for the second meeting of 2020 to chat the way forward amid the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The FIA e-Conference, chaired by  President Jean Todt and Deputy President for Sport Graham Stoker prioritised cost-saving measures for WRC, announcing a number of changes to the Sporting Regulations which have been ratified to facilitate the restart of the 2020 season.

These include a reduction in the number of engines used by WRC teams from three to two if there are eight or fewer rounds in 2020, and the limitation of pre-event testing to one day for every manufacturer driver entered in a European WRC round, the test to be used before the corresponding event. Both proposals have already been approved by competitors registered in the 2020 WRC, in accordance with article 18.2.4 of the International Sporting Code, the FIA resolutions stated.

With the global situation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic evolving,  the Council noted the publication of extensive ‘Return to Motor Sport’ guidelines prepared by the FIA under the direction of FIA Medical Commission President, Professor Gérard Saillant, following discussions with the World Health Organisation.

“It sets out best practices for the running of events as it becomes possible to do so under applicable health regulations. The FIA has consulted the guidance issued by public health authorities, and the advice of an independent external expert, in order to put together the protocols set out in this COVID-19 Code of Conduct to mitigate the risks of transmission of the virus that may arise during the staging of Events that include a round of the FIA Formula One World Championship. The scope of the COVID-19 Code of Conduct will be expanded to certain other championships, as well as to other categories of motorsport,” said Saillant.

Locally, events in the motorsport calendar have been put on hold pending Kenya Motorsport Federation (KMSF) direction.

FIA Regional Rally Championships which also counts towards in the African Rally Championship (ARC) saw measures being adopted to address issues linked to the COVID-19 crisis and encourage participation in international series. National drivers and co-drivers (exclusively) participating in an FIA rally competition organised in their countries now benefit from an equivalence process between national and international licenses without additional financial or administrative constraints.

To secure the sporting value of awarded titles, a minimum number of championship events has been set at 50 per cent of the initial calendar, with a minimum of three, this being the reason why the 2020 ARC was canceled. Zambia’s withdrawal saw this year’s ARC fail to meet the 50 per cent threshold.