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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

Kenya Safari Rally may return to motor World Championships

by John Kwoba NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s premier motor sport competition Safari Rally has taken a major step in its bid to return to the World Rally Championship (WRC) after it was slotted in the 2020 pre-calendar.

Whereas this year’s Safari Rally in June will serve as a candidate event for WRC, the new move, pending final draft by WRC, almost confirms the country’s dream to have the event back in the top tier of global motor sport circuit in 2020.

Speaking in Nairobi on Saturday, Kenya Motor Sport Federation president, Phineas Kimathi said it was the best move especially after the WRC Promoter and Kenya government signed an agreement with Federation of International Automobile (FIA) in Paris.

The 14-leg WRC has been lacking a leg in Africa since Safari Rally was dropped in 2002.

Now Kimathi says the classic continental fixture is one year away from returning to the global calendar in 2020, which will see more international teams register to compete in Kenya.

"Kenya has signed a three year deal with the promoter to run the event as part of the WRC from 2020 to 2022.

"It’s an exciting project, which we hope to fulfill all its conditions. One final step in the agreement was to hold the Safari rally in 2019 as the Candidate Event. We will do so in June, Kimathi said on Saturday in Nairobi.

"We are slotted for 2020. But the important thing to me is not the pre-calendar status but to get it right when we host this year’s event as The Candidate Event," said Kimathi.

WRC managing director Oliver Ciesla together with FIA president Jean Todt and Kenya’s Ministry of Sport signed the agreement, which will empower the WRC and the FIA, the governing body of world motor sports, to determine if conditions for a return to the circuit as a fully-fledged race have been met during this year’s event.

The iconic African event, famed for its tough driving conditions, featured on the World Championship circuit between 1973 and 2002.

The first ever edition in 1953, marking the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, crossed into Tanzania and Uganda. Ciesla said the move to return to Africa will make the rally truly global.

"It reflects our determination to restore a legendary rally to the championship and reintegrate Africa to the top table of world rallying after an absence of more than a decade," said Ciesla in a statement.

Principal Secretary for Sports, Ambassador Peter Kaberia, lauded the move as a step forward.

"Our Government is very committed to the Safari Rally and we will do everything in our power to make sure this great event is brought back to the WRC.

"This signing is a major milestone and a day we have looked forward to for a very long time.

"There is still a lot of work to be done and we will collaborate closely with all parties ahead of next year’s candidate rally to show that Kenya is ready and capable to deliver what is expected," said Kaberia.

             

 

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