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‘FIA miss Safari’

WRC Promoter says ‘Racing in the Wild’ puts Kenya in a good position to return to WRC

The calendar will be announced later in the year.

In Summary

• Ciesla also admitted that the Government of Kenya and organisers have made significant progress towards the intended return.

President Uhuru flags off Onkar Rai during last weekend's rally
President Uhuru flags off Onkar Rai during last weekend's rally
Image: COURTESY

WRC Promoter Oliver Ciesla believes the Safari Rally has presented a strong bid towards the 2020 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) whose

The calendar will be announced later in the year.

Speaking in Naivasha after the culmination of the WRC Candidate Safari Rally, Ciesla admitted that the WRC has over the years lacked the jungle

 
 

sort of racing which places the Kenyan round of the FIA African Rally Championship (ARC) in a good position to return to the apex of motor rallying.

Following the return of Rally Turkey to the WRC in 2018, FIA announced plans to expand the calendar to fourteen rounds in 2019 with the long-term objective of running sixteen championship events.

Twelve prospective bids for events were put together, including candidate events in New Zealand, Japan and Chile.

Prospective events in Kenya, Croatia, Canada and Estonia expressed interest in joining the calendar within five years.  The 2019 Safari Rally was run as a WRC candidate event with the noble objective to be back by 2020.

“Fans around the world have an appetite of Safari coming back but this doesn’t mean we keep remembering the picture of Kenya 20 years ago. It doesn’t help us to look back all the time but how we present the event in the future.

“The WRC is definitely missing the zebras and buffaloes that were synonymous with the picturesque terrain back in the day. “What we don’t have today is a jungle rally or something akin to the Safari that’s unique and different from the present day sprint events,” Ciesla added.

Asked what it will take for the Kenyan Project to come to fruition, Ciesla said: “The last building block for me was to make these key observations on Safari. From the Promoter point of view, we don’t see any obstacles to be advanced for next year. But with all due respect, we will leave it to our colleagues at FIA to make the decision.”

Ciesla also admitted that the Government of Kenya and organisers have made significant progress towards the intended return. Nonetheless, he clarified that the onus is now on FIA, who were well represented at the 67th edition of the event.

Ciesla said the safety, medical and sporting delegates will present reports to various commissions of FIA where further analysis after which recommendations and decisions will be affected in regards to the future of Safari Rally.

FIA delegates were in Kenya to assess the country’s capacity to return to the WRC status. Led by Michelle Mouton, a former rally driver herself who came second in the 1982 WRC, FIA team will oversee various facets of Kenya’s preparations for the return to global status, which status the country lost in the year 2002 when the late. Colin McRae won the last WRC-status event to be held in Kenya.

Mouton, a rally safety expert, led the FIA team to assess the safety measures in place by local motorsport officials to ensure the country gets the approval to return to WRC status. Mouton will give a comprehensive report to the FIA Safety Commission and so will the others.

The planned expansion of the WRC has put pressure on European rounds to maintain their position on the calendar as teams were unwilling to contest sixteen events immediately.

The Tour de Corse and Rally Italia Sardegna proved to be unpopular among teams for the logistical difficulties of travelling to Corsica and Sardinia and low spectator attendance at the events.