NAIVASHA – Kenya is gearing up to hosting the famous World Rally Championship – WRC for the first time, after 19 years.
The event will run between June 24-27 – marking a return, following a suspension of hosting rights by the sport’s world governing body – the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile – FIA, 19 years ago.
According to organisers, ‘drivers tested the grounds during the African Rally Championship – ARC last Friday, as many of them were excited about the return of the WRC.’
“We’ve been running for 20 years and it was a dream for WRC to come back to Africa, and mainly Kenya because for me it’s a country that is very close to my heart as well,” the country’s official motorsport, website quotes Rwanda’s female rally driver Sylvia Vindevogel as saying.
“It’s African Rally Championship, I’ve done it for many years and it’s good. The link is very beautiful.”
Kenyan rally driver Nzioka Waita said: “A lot of work has gone in from the rally fraternity, from the government, from all the stakeholders to bringing this event back home.
“And we are quite sure that all those who are coming for the WRC will enjoy themselves immensely, they’ll meet the challenge, but they will also get to enjoy Kenya’s beauty and hospitality.”
Known as the Safari rally, it mesmerised the world with its landscape.
The WRC was set to return to Kenya last year but the coronavirus pandemic thwarted the plans.
The event’s return is an effort that can attributed to the Kenyan government for its financial aid as well as political will.
“It’s our first of five rallies since 2002 when we were told to leave; and it has to be the best one ever so that there’s no doubt in anybody’s mind that Kenya is the rally country of the continent; it’s the rally continent of the south, and hopefully it’ll be the rally country of the entire world,” said Amina Mohamed, Kenya minister of sports.
The return of the rally could boost tourism too and provide a market for Kenyan products.
Kenya is hoping to plant 18 million trees across the route to celebrate the years the event had been suspended.
As part of preparations for the upcoming WRC, 33 drivers from different parts of the continent took place in the ARC sanctioned Equator Rally that ended on Sunday with Kenyan driver Carl ‘Flash’ Tundo defying torrential rains and muddy conditions to emerge victorious in Naivasha.
On his very first outing with the Minti Motorsports VW Polo R5 -the five-time Safari Rally winner flourished through wet conditions as he led the Kenya round of the continental series from start to finish in this event where a total of six drivers carrying the Ugandan flag, retired due to different mechanical setbacks. It was only Jas Mangaat and Nasser Yasin who managed to finish third and 18th, respectively.
The two-day event claimed Uganda Ronald Ssebuguzi on day one in SS6; as sensational driver, Rajiv Ruparelia car radiator burst on the initial day, forcing him to retire in SS7 – the following day.
Rajiv, who had previously exhibited a rare skill at the Nakuru KCB rally championship, could not push his Volkswagen Polo Proto any further in the rough terrains of Naivasha during the Malewa 1 CS.
Rajiv Ruparelia and Co-driver had managed a seventh overall finish performance on day in legion of 33 cars that were flagged off.
“The Ugandan (Rajiv) is one of the best and could have probably finished in the top three but his car let him down…. however, it’s good that he survived that incident –and thanks to the Almighty. it was a terrible incident that could have cost him a life,” remarked a seemingly disappointed fan of the tycoon – Sudhir Ruparelia’s son.
Equator selected final results
1- Carl Tundo / Tim Jessop (KEN-Volkswagen Polo) 02:34:08.8 hours
2- Tejveer Rai/ Gareth Dawe (KEN-Volkswagen Polo) 02:46:17.4
3- Jas Mangat (UG-Mits Evo10) 03:03:32.1
4- Giancarlo Davite/ S.Vindevogel (RWA-Mits Evolution 10) 03:06:39.1
5- Hamza Anwar/Riyaz l (KEN- Subaru Impreza GVB) 03:10:08.2
6- Onkar Rai/Drew Sturrock (KEN-Volkswagen Polo) 03:11:18.5
7- Jasmeet Chana/ Ravi Chana (KEN-Mitsubishi Evolution 10) 03:13:38.7
18- Nasser Yasin/ Katumba Ali (UG -Sub Imp.WRX STi 4WD) 4:08:13.8