This year’s Safari is a “trial”, World Rally Championship Candidate event, for the long sought inclusion in the 2020 calendar. Expectation is at fever pitch and for this year’s Safari counting as an African Rally Championship (ARC) edition, it is as if the Safari is surely back to the pre-2002 when the Kenya showcase was firmly regarded as the toughest and most thrilling round of the world championship.
In those days the dream view of the Safari was watching the world’s most iconic drivers storming through East African wild and on “crazy” roads, tracks, bushes, river beds, over mountains … etc. But still, for many Safari addict’s satisfaction was having even a glimpse of the fast cars at mostly the traditional start inside Nairobi’s city centre — outside City Hall or Kenyatta International Sports Centre (KICC) — and on tarmac “transport” roads to and from outside the city.
This time for the Safari Start at Kasarani on July 5, a lot of action is promised those enthusiasts who never saw the Safari on “competition model” out on the trail. Around comfortable expanse of Kasarani, tens of thousands are expected to witness the ceremonial start in front to the sport’s centre’s stadium Presidential Pavilion at 11 am.
From there, inside the vast Kasarani land, a 4.50km natural racing track will offer the spectators the view of two-cars-at-a-time competing against each other. With a maximum 60 cars allowed in this year’s WRC Candidate event, that will be a thrilling 30 “match contests” to take in.
Then the cars go out of Kasarani, on a transport road that will likely see bumper-to-bumper roadside viewing by gigantic crowds from Roysambu’s TRM (Thika Road Mall) round-about, past Githurai, Kahawa Barracks, Kenyatta University, Ruiru; then taking Thika Highway left Exit 14 to enter Kenyatta Road. Past Theta Hotel, New Rain recreation resort, Kimunyu, Mutomo, Ichaweri, Kiganjo, the cars drive over scenic views north of Gatundu South Constituency, including tea tracts in the higher altitude areas.
Up to Mundoro shopping centre, the end of tarmac, the cars prepare for the first battle of skills in the Gatamaiyu Forest. It will likely be over a tricky, wet road through fog and cold temperatures. And this will be where the real Safari “action buff” will have headed earlier, foregoing Kasarani, to be in place in the controlled spectator sections inside the competitive stage.
The end of Gatamaiyu stage will be looping back onto the main Nairobi Naivasha Highway at Kinale [“Soko Mjinga”]. Of course more thousands will have line-up to watch the cars “transport” from there, through “Flyover”, View Point, Kinungi and on to Naivasha’s for the first Service Park rest near Sopa Lodge.
Kasarani is indeed working round the clock to have everything set for the spectators’ Super Special Stage”. Assistant clerk of the course George Mwangi said the “race track” will be ready to satisfaction of all including observers for the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) and WRC Promoter.
ointing out the laid-on track including a specially constructed bridge (under pass and over pass) where the two cars will “criss cross” he said: “As you can see, the road (track) is ready and will be all-weather. The bridge construction is over; we are just waiting for the concrete to cure then we do the over-fill.”
Mwangi said the spectator stage in Kasarani is a great investment to the Moi International Sports Centre and Kenyan motorsport in general. “Obviously we are looking forward to this place attracting massive world viewership next year with the Safari being a WRC event. Secondly, this will be a permanent venue for annual Kenya Motor Sports Foundation (KMSF) events such as the Kenya National Rally Championship (KNRC), the Autocross and the Motocross.”
The Government of Kenya is financially and technically backing the special WRC Safari Rally Project charged with working to host this year’s Safari WRC Candidate Event and drive efforts to winning the Safari’s return to the WRC in 2020.
On June 1 during a national day in Narok County, President Uhuru Kenyatta told the attendants at the celebrations: “The glory days of the Safari are set to return as we expect to host this main event once again in 2020.”
The WRC Safari Project chief executive officer, former Safari driver Phineas Kimathi to a television programme, this year’s Safari will be a thriller right from the onset: “For a long time a lot of people saw the cars only at the ceremonial start. This time it’s different. Here at Kasarani they will be able to seem then go into instant competition after the flag off at 11am on July 5.”
Meanwhile by end of last week 26 cars had been entered for the Safari WRC Candidate event. Organisers have said there is a maximum cap of 60 and the entries close on June 20.
Of added interest the entry of foreigners the latest being well known on the Kenyan scene, Duncan ‘Kikankane’ Mubiru who will be doing his sixth Safari. Last year, Mubiru had a spectacular roll in front of spectator in the Kedong’ section in Naivasha, just metres to the finish. Mubiru finished seventh in 2014
Giancarlo Davite, a Belgian to be co-driven by Sylvia Vinevogel of Burundi, has entered a Mitsubishi EVO X. Davite has done the Safari Rally five times with his best results being ninth overall in 2004. He was 11th three years later and finished 15th in 2010. The latest entrants are:
- Giancarlo Davite (Belgium)/Sylvia Vinevogel (Burundi) – Mitsubishi EVO X
– Duncan ‘Kikankane’ Mubiru(Ugandan) – Mitsubishi EVO X
- Kepher Walubi/Anthony Mugambwa(Uganda) Mitsubishi EVOX
- Ronald Ssebaguzi/Leon Ssenyange(Uganda) – Mitsubishi EVO X
- Yasin Nasser/Ali Katumba (Uganda) – Mitsubishi EVO X
Some of Kenya’s top drivers were first focused on the Zambia Rally, the ARC round that precedes the Safari and they included current Safari champion Carl “Flash” Tundo. Reports said Kenyan Manvir Baryan in a Skoda Fabia R5 won in the Zambian event. Nevertheless, entries from the leading Kenyans have been received including:
- Carl “Flash” Tundo – (Mitsubishi Evolutions X)
- Baldev Chager – (Mitsubishi Evolutions X)
- Onkar Rai – (Skoda Fabia R5)
- Manvir Baryan – (Skoda Fabia R5)
- Karan Patel – (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X)
McRae Kimathi a 24-year-old rookie has also entered a Mitsubishi EVO X
–Additional reporting by WRC Safari Rally Project