NAIROBI, Kenya- The scrutineering of this year’s Safari Rally will be done at the Moi International Sports Complex, Kasarani next Thursday (March 15) on the eve of the test event of the 2019 World Rally Championship (WRC).
Organisers are leaving nothing to chance in a bid to readmit the Safari back to the WRC roster after 15 years in the international cold, informing their decision to change the inspection venue for competing cars.
“The gradient and flat surface offered by Kasarani make it ideal to check out cars at Zero Level and for mounting mechanical equipment compared to the Kenya International Convention Centre (KICC),”Clerk-of-Course, Gurvir Bhabra explained the venue switch in a press release.
“Kasarani is also the headquarters of the WRC Safari Rally Project with more than 3000 square feet office space, where technical staff, officials can document on location use the office equipment at the permanent rally headquarters next door,” Bhabra continued.
Rally cars will be inspected on among other things; to seal components like turbo chargers, check eligibility as competition machines and ascertain safety standards as per the International Motorsport Federation (FIA) set standards.
Lovers of the premier motorsport event that is the second round of the 2018 Kenya National Rally Championship will however, see the cars zoom off from the traditional KICC venue at the heart of capital Nairobi.
“The drivers will leave Kasarani on Thursday but must park their rally cars at the KICC pac ferme on Friday by 9am (+3GMT) and be seated by 10am, an hour before the first car is flagged off as per FIA regulations and protocols of the day.
“The first car is expected at Sopa Lodge, 94km from Nairobi, by 12:30pm for service at the Service Park within the same facility before heading for the first and only competitive stage of the day, Aberdares (12km long) via the main road,” the Clerk of Course stated.
The road towards Aberdares is behind the massive Delamere Farm heading towards the Aberdare Ranges, 49km from the lodge.
The cars will be back to Sopa for overnight halt ahead of the next day’s action in Soysambu Ranch about 20km from Gilgil town on the left side on Nairobi-Nakuru Highway.
Organisers are expected to release a proper spectator guide in the closed sections for their own safety and those of competing cars as Kenya bids to put up an event that will convince the FIA to reinstate Safari to the WRC calendar next year.
FIA President, Jean Todt, was recently in the country to open the WRC Safari Project headquarters at Kasarani in a huge boost for the nation’s chances of returning to the elite roster, with the Government having earlier committed funds to guarantee costs of staging an international rally.
The headquarters of the 2018 Safari will be moved to Sopa, located 14km from Naivasha town via the old escarpment road until next Sunday’s end which will also finish there instead of KICC as has been the custom.
FIA has insisted on a closed-circuit event as a pre-requisite of the readmission of the Safari to the WRC after the event billed as the ‘toughest rally in the world’ was struck off in 2003.
At the time, the world body cited safety concerns raised by major works team coupled with the Government’s failure to underwrite the costs of hosting a WRC round.
Team Kabras driver; Onkar Rai won the opening round of the KNRC to successfully defend his Nakuru title on February 18 when he lost a cumulative time of 1:28.43.4 hours in a Skoda Fabia.
Teammate and former national champion, Baldev Chager and Ian Duncan, who famously won the 1994 Safari when it was a WRC showdown in his famous Toyota Celica GT4 christened ‘Flying Sausage’, finishing third.
The trio will be among the main contenders for the Safari crown alongside four-time event champion Carl ‘Flash’ Tundo (2004, 2009, 2011 and 2012) who was fifth in Nakuru behind Manvir Baryan.
Tundo, who has been navigated by Tim Jessop since 2002, won the 2009 Safari when it was part of the International Rally Challenge that is a rung below the WRC and remains the first and only Kenyan to achieve that honour.
The iconic Safari was first held from 27 May to 1 June 1953 as the East African Coronation Safari in Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika as a celebration of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II of England.
In 1960 it was renamed the East African Safari Rally and kept that name until 1974, when it became the Safari Rally.
A spin-off of the original gruelling event, the East Africa Safari Classic was established and held for the first time in 2003 where entries are restricted to cars built before 1974 and runs across the three nations of the founding event to recreate the nostalgia of old.