Kenya: Why FIA Boss Todt is Coming to Kenya

24 November 2020

International Automobile Federation (FIA) President Jean Todt arrives in Kenya Tuesday for a three-day official visit, whose highlight will be the launch of a 19 million-tree WRC Safari Rally Greening Legacy Project.

This is the first of a kind project in Kenya to support the government's reforestation exercise by a sporting body and will continue well into next year before the start of the 2021 WRC Safari Rally.

The WRC Safari Rally Chief Executive Officer Phineas Kimathi, when releasing Todt's programme Monday, said the FIA boss will plant the first tree outside the refurbished WRC Safari Rally headquarters at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, next to the one he planted two and half years ago when he opened the secretariat.

Todt will be hosted by Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed in who was recently appointed as a member of the top FIA decision making body, the World Motorsport Council.

She will be accompanied by top government officials.

The 19 million trees signify the return of the iconic Safari Rally back in the high-profile FIA World Rally Championship - a circuit which attracts close to a billion TV viewership in the world annually - after 19 years, Kimathi said.

Todt who was last in Kenya in 2018 was instrumental in actualising the Safari Rally's return to the global circuit through his influence and personal engagement with President Uhuru Kenyatta, also the patron of the WRC Safari Rally, for the last five years.

The President pledged to Kenyans in the Jubilee Government's 2013 pre-election manifesto of his determination to restore the Safari Rally's WRC status which was stripped by the FIA in 2002 due to safety reasons and lack of government support.

The return was achieved on September 27 last year after the federation included Kenya in the 13-rounds circuit following the input of experts seconded by the FIA's commercial rights holder, WRC Promoter, the government, Kenya Motorsports Federation (KMSF) and the WRC Safari Rally Project personnel.

The FIA President also met President Kenyatta in Nairobi two years ago and in Kingston, Jamaica, on the sidelines of the Jamaican Independence Day celebrations which resulted in the restoration of the Safari Rally's WRC status.

Todt personally chose to inform the Kenyan people of the FIA World Motorsport Council's decision to include the Safari in the 2020 WRC calendar through a live video link from the federation's headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, on September 27 last year.

He has in the past said that he would like to see Kenya use the Safari Rally to reduce road carnage in the country.

He was present during the signing ceremony between the FIA WRC commercial rights holder, WRC Promoter, and the Kenyan government on June 21 in Paris, when Kenya was granted rights to host the 2019 Safari Rally as an FIA WRC Candidate Event.

This paved way for the FIA to observe last year's Safari, held from July 5-7, which the federation's delegates gave top marks thus paving way for the return of the Safari back into the WRC from this year.

Todt will on Thursday inspect the WRC Safari Rally Service Park at the Kenya Wildlife Service Training Institute where all rallying activities including competition vehicles central service area, team's headquarters and main local and global media centre.

The Safari will be flagged off outside the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) on June 24, 2021, before cars head to the spectator-friendly Kasarani Super Special Stage.

Action will revolve around Naivasha and Gilgil areas for the next three days.

Kimathi said that Todt will later deliver a keynote address on the Kenyan event at the Lake Naivasha Resort Safari Rally headquarters.

He will however, have other official engagements at the UN headquarters at Gigiri in his capacity of the United Nations Secretary General Special Envoy on Road Safety.

With the Covid-19 pandemic throwing global sport into a spin, the Safari Rally and most of the 2020 WRC rounds were either postponed or cancelled altogether since March this year.

The 2021 WRC Safari Rally has since been confirmed to run from June 24 to 27.

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