NAIROBI – Kenya’s legendary Safari Rally today inched closer to rejoining the prestigious World Rally Championships (WRC) next year when President Uhuru Kenyatta flagged off the 66th edition at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.
The WRC candidate event has attracted 49 elite drivers from across Africa who will cover over 796 kilometres in three days.
President Kenyatta said Kenya was proud to host the candidate event saying the journey to re-enter the WRC series began in 2013 when the Jubilee Administration took over leadership.
“Today, the journey we began in 2013 to return the most iconic of motoring events, the Safari Rally, to the International Automobile Federation-World Rally Championship Series, has scaled to greater heights as we proudly host this World Rally Championship Candidate Event,” the President said.
He assured motorsport stakeholders and enthusiasts that the government is fully committed to supporting the rally and expressed optimism that the Safari Rally project in Kenya will become a full series event.
“Like so many Kenyans, I am confident that not only will this Safari Rally be a full series event, but also the Kenyan Flag will feature on the winning podium in a number of events,” said the President.
The Head of State acknowledged the support from FIA through its President Jean Todt in the ongoing efforts to ensure Kenya returns to the WRC.
“The logistical and technical support that we have received from the International Automobile Federation has not only made this event possible, but also deepened Kenya’s capacity to deliver world class rallying experiences,” said the President.
He assured the world motorsport’s body of Kenya’s keenness to meet all FIA regulations, standards and requirements so that Kenya is re-admmitted to the WRC.
The President handed over a government sponsorship cheque of Shs 449 million to the Kenya Motorsports Federation for use in the development of motorsport activities in the country.
The money was drawn from the National Sports Fund which has been supporting national teams representing the country in international sporting activities including Harambee Stars during their recent AFCON football competitions in Cairo.
President Kenyatta expressed optimism that the Safari Rally he flagged off today will restore the immense love for motorsports among Kenyans as he recalled memorable Safari Rally events of the 1970s and 80s.
The President said the Safari Rally should inspire many Kenyans to move forward in life with enthusiastic hearts and with a clear sense of whole.
He said the Safari Rallly and other sports for which Kenya is known for embodies the spirit of possibility, a spirit that conquers and defies all odds.
After flagging off today’s 4 kilometre super stage around Kasarani, President Kenyatta joined spectators to watch the rally starters warming up ahead of a grueling competition.