Kenya: Rwandan Drivers Set for 2021 Kenya Safari Rally

Rwandan rally drivers have shown interest in participating in the forthcoming Kenya Safari Rally slated in Kenya in June.

Kenya's fabled Safari Rally, one of global motorsport's legendary fixtures, returns to the FIA World Rally Championship calendar in July since 2002 after a 19-year hiatus.

The return of the iconic Safari Rally to the World Rally Championship has taken another step closer, with a 2020 calendar slot the target but was eventually cancelled due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

It was rescheduled from June 24-27 in Nairobi and Naivasha, well ahead of the official opening of entries for the Kenyan classic on May 11.

At least nine drivers from three factory teams have so far confirmed their participation at the 2021 edition and Rwandan drivers could soon join the list of participants after Rwanda Motorsport Club expressed interest to take part.

Moses Mutabaruka, the Secretary-General of Rwanda Automobile Club (RAC) told Times Sport that the return of WRC Safari Rally was a major boost not only for RAC but Rwandan drivers, in general, to test and improve their level of performance in future competitions.

"We are happy to see Safari Rally back in the region and this is an international rally that can help us and it would be a good idea to be part of it. I hope it will help us to understand the level of performance of our drivers," Mutabaruka said in a telephone interview.

He said RAC is in negotiations with the rally organisers about the possibility to see some drivers of the club competing in the race and alerted that the negotiations are so far promising.

"We are interested in participating in this year's edition and we look forward to having our drivers on such a big stage," he said.

Any possible confirmation, however, does not put Rwanda in the position to compete in the WRC category but in lower categories of the rally, according to Rwanda Automobile Club (RAC) president Christian Gakwaya.

"It will be one event but with multiple categories. I can't say Rwanda will take part in the WRC category because we are not on that level yet. We could participate in the event but in other categories which are a bit below the WRC category," Gakwaya said.

The Safari Rally was last run as part of the WRC in 2002, and it was loved by fans for being more of an endurance battle than most rallies.

The nature of the rally, organised by the WRC Safari Rally Project, a joint venture between the Kenyan Government Sports Ministry and the Kenya Motor Sports Federation, has evolved to fit the modern-day WRC.

However, rough roads, stunning picture-postcard scenery, impressive wildlife (that sometimes gets in the way), and sticky, hot, and impossible-to-predict weather conditions made it especially grueling.

Previously, the Safari Rally could be as long as 3,700 miles and take up to six days to finish.

A team of rally experts has since last week been doing a series of inspections in Naivasha and Nairobi, both of which will host the Rally, assessing the progress preparatory activities.

They also had a look at some more sections and reviewed the rally's Service Park at the Kenya Wildlife Service Training Institute in Naivasha to identify areas allocated to teams, media and management.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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