Nairobi — The legendary 'Toughest Rally on Earth' Kenya's Safari Rally inched a step closer to mark a return to the World Rally Championship (WRC) calendar when the 2019 edition was confirmed as a Test Event for the rejoining the global circuit.
In a press statement released from Munich, the long-awaited move follows the signing of an agreement between the WRC Promoter and the Ministry of Sports and Heritage in Paris on Thursday with a view of the classic African fixture returning to the calendar in 2020.
Managing Director, Oliver Ciesla and Principal Secretary for Sports, Ambassador Peter Kaberia and Kenya Motor Sport Federation and WRC Safari Rally Chairman, Phineas Kimathi put pen to paper in the deal in the presence of world body FIA President, Jean Todt.
"This agreement reflects our determination to restore the legendary rally to the championship and reinstate Africa to the top table of world rallying after an absence of more than a decade," Ciesla remarked at the signing ceremony.
The Safari, which was last part of the WRC is due to take place as a candidate event in 2019, when the FIA and WRC Promoter will observe it.
Its return to the high table of rallying will be sealed if it meets 'high level standards in key areas such as safety and organisation,' the WRC press release stated.
The Safari will be entered in the WRC for an initial three-year period from 2020 to 2022 if the event is given the seal of approval by observers.
According to the WRC, the candidate event is expected to be held in March or April next year, with Ciesla part of the 2018 Safari held in Nairobi that was part of the Africa Rally Championship and Kenya National Rally Championship competitions.
"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," Kaberia remarked.
The WRC pulled the plug on the Safari in 2003 after failing to get Government guarantees of funding the event besides safety concerns for the works teams that make up the elite event.