Nairobi, Jul 5 : Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta summed up the country's expectation to see the Safari Rally return to the World Rally Championships on Friday when he flagged off the 51 cars competing in this year's event.
Kenyatta said the Safari Rally is held in high esteem in Kenya and is very much part of the national psyche, started in 1953 as part of the coronation of the British Queen Elizabeth.
It was part of the World Rally Championship for many years until 2002, when it was axed for lack of finance and government support.
However, support from the International Automobile Federation (FIA) whose president Jean Todt is also a UN special envoy on road safety, visited Kenya and met Kenyatta in 2015, the event is now running as a Candidate race for the WRC this year.
After this hurdle, the Safari rally will be back in the 14-leg WRC starting 2020."Rallying has deep roots in Kenya's national psyche. Many generations of Kenyans were raised against the background of impressive rally races, criss-crossing our nation, and looking up to motoring legends," said Kenyatta on Friday in Nairobi.
"I am confident that not only will this Safari Rally being a full series event for the WRC, but also the Kenyan flag will feature on the winning podium. I can confirm that the government through the ministry of sports is eager to lend a hand wherever the industry and sponsors may require."
FIA's president Jean Todt in his visit to Kenya in 2015, said it was not right for the WRC not to have a leg in Africa and encouraged local organizers to improve safety of fans, drivers and crews to secure back the event in the global circuit.
Kenyatta acknowledged Todt support for the duration of the dream to have Safari Rally back to the WRC.
"We are committed to meeting all FIA regulations, standards and requirements so that Kenya may once again feature at the apex of global rallying," he assured.
FIA Safety Delegate, Michele Mouton, and her team are overseeing the running of the event and will report back to the Monaco based headquarters before Safari rally can be evaluated and readmitted in the WRC next year.