After two exciting rounds of the 2020 FIA World Rally Championship, this season is already shaping up to be one of the most enjoyable and memorable for competitors and fans of the sport alike. The iconic Safari Rally returns to the WRC calendar on 16-19 July in Kenya for an all-gravel contest.
With its special allure, rich heritage and bustling economies in East Africa, 2020 is the right time to feature on the WRC calendar. Motorsport locally is growing and the new vehicle manufacturing and sales have increased dramatically in Kenya and neighbouring countries Tanzania and Nigeria.
FIA President Jean Todt spoke to on the upcoming Safari Rally: “Kenya will be different with gravel roads, nature, adventure and all other things needed for the interest of World Rally.”
“The Swedish Rally was meant for snow and Safari Rally was a traditional event and everyone was happy to see cars cover long distances,” continued Todt. “But things changed and no one would expect to have similar stages. We are now waiting to reap the fruits of the efforts towards the Safari return. In my position, I always try to live beyond a personal level. I try to see what is the interest of the championship.”
Todt competed on several Safari Rallies as a co-driver for drivers such as Timo Makinen, Hannu Mikkola, Jean-Pierre Nicholas, Guy Frequelin, and the late-great Ove Andersson. It was with Andersson in the 1973 edition that this pairing won third place overall in a Peugeot 504 Ti. Interestingly, in none of his other appearances did Todt manage to complete the event such was the demanding and challenging nature of the marathon event that took in thousands of kilometres of driving.
Come July this year, a vastly different prospect awaits WRC crews: stages are held in one country with stages set out in what is now a traditional clover-leaf pattern unlike the zig-zagging route covering Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania in the early 1970s and 1980s.
He commented: “We want to have rallies on every continent. Each region deserves to host a certain FIA event. Africa only had the World Rallycross Championship in South Africa. Now we have the Safari Rally.”
The WRC’s growth has benefited the sport in general, and adding more rallies to the calendar makes it a truly global series. New Zealand and Japan make a welcome return to the WRC to bring even more appeal for fans and competitors alike.
The next round of the WRC is Rally Mexico on 12-15 March 2020.