Kenya is on course to regain World Rally Championships (WRC) status subject to fulfilling certain conditions set by global governing body FIA, officials announced yesterday.
Some of the conditions set are for the country to deviate from holding events in populated public roads and resort to private land competitive stages.
Another prerequisite for Kenya other than safety is to put up a vibrant secretariat to inject the requisite professional element in the sport and above all attract colossal funding of between Ksh. 400 and 500 Million to successfully run a quality event.
As part of the long term campaign to restore the sheen of the competition, newly-elected Kenya Motor Sports Federation (KMSF) Chairman Phineas Kimathi who was in attendance during the recent FIA Congress in Turin, Italy, said he engaged several WRC promoters sensitizing them on the viability of Africa hosting a WRC.
In a nutshell, Kimathi said he was a strong crusader for the event to return to Africa and especially Kenya.
“Kenya’s return to the WRC series featured prominently in the Jubilee Manifesto and the impending development was supported overwhelmingly by several FIA member countries from Africa. I met virtually everybody who matters in WRC spheres and subsequently returned with a written commitment of according Kenya such privilege,” he expounded.
Kimathi who is a legendary Safari driver back then hinted that come next year, Kenya will make a comeback to the FIA African Rally Championship and indicated that KMSF is expecting that to be done by 2019.
“It’s our burning desire to return to the WRC series and while 2018 is ambitious, 2019 is indeed achievable,” quipped Kimathi.
Kimathi was speaking at a press briefing where KCB Group reviewed its sponsorship to KSMF towards the Kenya National Rally Championship. The shift will see the bank step down as the title sponsor of KNRC and Safari and instead take up a new role as the official banking partner for the rally and other motorsport disciplines from 2017, said KCB Marketing and Communications Director Angela Mwirigi.
With 14 years of unswerving support, KCB has been the longest serving partner of the rally sport after Malboro. KCB Group took up the mantle to sponsor two successive Safaris in 2003 and 2004 in the Coast before coming on board as the title sponsor of the KNRC series from 2005 to-date.
“The Bank has over the last one year reviewed its sponsorships portfolio to reflect the overall strategic vision for the Group, explaining why we have taken this tangent,” said Mwirigi, adding: “We want to give sports fans an enhanced experience in line with our brand.”
Mwirigi at the same time underscored the need of KNRC organizers seeking for more sponsorships ostensibly to give leeway to KCB to facilitate other sporting disciplines to realize their full potential.
“We are working out details of a new arrangement with KMSF and we will be informing you in due course,” added Mwirigi.
In attendance were Kenya Rally Drivers Association (KRDA) Mr. Raaji Bharij and KNRC Official Timing and Communications Partner Liquid Telkom represented by Paul.
Mr. Kimathi, however, noted that the readmission of Safari Rally to the WRC calendar will not be a walk in the park and will require concerted efforts of all stakeholders including the government and corporate entities.
“I have been invited to observe the rally of Germany and I will be in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) to pitch for Safari’s re-admission to WRC calendar. But this will not come on a silver platter as we will be first be required to re-organize our house. KCB has released its title sponsorship to allow us go and sell the title for whatever bid.
When Safari regains its rightful placing in the world calendar, it will definitely market Kenya as a tourist destination besides improving the economy of the country. Safari was struck off from the global when Kenya failed to meet some key conditions handed by FIA.
Latest statistics indicate that the WRC attracted a cumulative Television audience of 755 million, 8 million visitors to the WRC digital channels, 50n broadcasters in 150 TV markets, 1300-plus journalists registered on the event, 9150-plus broadcast hours, 1000-plus hours of Video on WRC, 3.8 million spectators watching the WRC rallies.