THE TOUCHLINE COLUMN

Multi-coloured machines all set to roar through Kenyan jungles

The country holds the iconic event so dearly as testified by the numerous petrol-heads who came out in droves to root for the speed demons as they rumbled off the streets of Nairobi and roared through the Naivasha jungle in the preceding season.

In Summary

•As the event comes alive tomorrow morning, all eyes will be on Sébastien Ogier who will be defending the title he bagged last year after a vicious battle on Kenya’s rocky rutted tracks and the treacherous terrain.

•The sub-Saharan classic returned to the series last year after a massive 19-year hiatus.

WRC Safari Rally winner Sébastien Ogier in action during last year's Safari Rally
WRC Safari Rally winner Sébastien Ogier in action during last year's Safari Rally
Image: FILE

The FIA World Rally Championship legends face off for the third time this year at the sixth and toughest round of the series — the Safari Rally Kenya.

The drivers of the multi-coloured machines are steeling themselves to thunder through gnarly routes of the picturesque Great Rift Valley, known to teem with exotic wildlife.   

As the event comes alive tomorrow morning, all eyes will be on Sébastien Ogier who will be defending the title he bagged last year after a vicious battle on Kenya’s rocky rutted tracks and the treacherous terrain.

The fact that Ogier will be renewing rivalry with traditional nemesis Sébastien Loeb in the FIA series makes the duel all the spicier.

Loeb, 47, is a nine-time champion who recently made history as the oldest WRC event winner after clinching the Rallye Monte-Carlo in his M-Sport Ford Puma Rally1. 

Ogier, a member of the Toyota Gazoo Racing team, has bagged eight titles including the 2021 Safari Rally. This will be the duo's first Kenyan clash with Loeb's last appearance in the country being in 2002. 

The country holds the iconic event so dearly as testified by the numerous petrol-heads who came out in droves to root for the speed demons as they rumbled off the streets of Nairobi and roared through the Naivasha jungle in the preceding season.

There was some measure of excitement in the air at the conclusion of the 2021 championship following the sumptuous news from President Uhuru that Kenya had secured annual hosting rights for the next five years.

We can only envision what the revelation means for our country. Pundits reckon, and correctly so, that the return of Safari Rally Kenya is bound to patch up and inflate the wobbling tyre of the country's tourism sector which had been punctured by a slumping economy and torn further by the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to authoritative statistics, last year's event pumped a whopping Sh4bn into the economy, quite an impressive return vis-a-vis the Sh450 million the government had set aside for the event.

Hopefully, we drew some rich lessons which we could use to make significant changes this time around.

There were some glaring setbacks in the 2021 event that the organisers must address, such as snarl-ups witnessed along the course. Pockets of blatant recklessness that could have easily caused fatalities also came to the fore, raising serious security and safety concerns.

There were also serious infringements of Covid-19 guidelines, especially at the official flag-off at the KICC, where spectators crowded and elbowed forward while jostling for strategic positions to catch a glimpse of the proceedings.

With the sixth wave of the dreaded pandemic gathering full force, it's only important for the organisers to put in place the necessary containment measures.

Hopefully, the country will capitalise on the power of the event to pull together a nation once galvanized by ethnicity especially coming at a time political campaigns have reached a fever pitch ahead of the August 9 General Elections.

We'd all love to see motorsports enthusiasts jamming the streets and mingling freely irrespective of their ethnicity and political ideologies as we witnessed last year.

The sub-Saharan classic returned to the series last year after a massive 19-year hiatus.