Kenya: Govt Backs Safari Rally World Championship Bid

Nairobi — The government of Kenya will offer all necessary guarantees prescribed by the International Motorsport Federation (FIA) to support Safari Rally’s bid back to the high profile World Rally Championship by 2019.

Last Friday, the Ministry for Sports, Arts and Culture, Hassan Wario sent the Kenya Motorsport Federation (KMSF) chairman, Phineas Kimathi to the FIA General Assembly in Vienna, Austria to deliver the commitment letter to the FIA’s commercial rights holder, the WRC Promoter.

This comes in the wake of a visit to Kenya by the FIA president, Jean Todt on December 12 of which the Kenya Motorsport federation will issue details of his itinerary later.

“The Kenya Government will offer all forms of guarantees including financial obligations towards the event, the FIA and WRC Promoter,” Sports Cabinet Secretary Hassan Wario wrote to the WRC Promoter Managing Director, Oliver Ciesla.

“We shall constitute inter-government agencies Local organizing Committee in conjunction with the KMSF once we get the go ahead from the WRC,” added Wario in the letter copied to President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto.

The re-admission of the Safari back to the WRC was part of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee Manifesto. The president met with Todt last year at State House, Nairobi when he personally re-affirmed Kenya government’s desire to have the Safari back in the WRC.

“As a priority, the government shall put in place the necessary structures leading towards a full WRC Safari in 2019 after running a candidate event in 2018 and 2017 Africa Rally Championship event as a dry run WRC Safari, said the Minister.

“In our considered opinion, we request the WRC promoter and the FIA to offer us all necessary support in areas of technical, communication and any other assistance you may deem fit in the lead up towards a 2019 WRC Safari Rally because the WRC Safari is good for our tourism and Kenya’s image and attractiveness.”

The FIA WRC Promoter venture, headed by Ciesla of The Sportsman Media Group and Jona Siebel of the Red Bull Media House as managing directors, is responsible for all commercial aspects of the FIA World Rally Championship.

These include broadcast formats, TV productions and the marketing of global media and sponsorship rights. The WRC Promoter also has the responsibility to promote the WRC and to increase the field of participants, consisting both manufacturers and private teams, subject to the approval of FIA.

The Promoter has also the mandate to propose the venues that will form the FIA WRC calendar in future seasons. Ciesla confirmed receipt of the letter and will respond in due course.

In his earlier communication to Kimathi he indicated FIA’s desire to have the Safari re-admitted back to the WRC because of geo-political reason.

“On behalf of the WRC Promoter, I may confirm our strong support to bringing back the “Safari” into the WRC,” Ciesla wrote to Kimathi on June 24.

“It would match our strategic plans to have a WRC event on the African continent and bring to the WRC fans worldwide the unique images that only a rally on Kenyan soil can deliver.

We encourage you to engage with your government and we will provide you with all the assistance.”

Kimathi said the world of motorsport is excited with the possible return of the Safari in the WRC. “I have had fruitful discussions with the WRC Promoter and top officials of the FIA here in Vienna,” said Kimathi.

“Next week I will have several meetings with manufacturers and other stakeholders as I can the feasibility of this project,” said Kimathi. This will be his second visit to Italy since June during the FIA Sports Conference where the Safari re-admission buzz featured prominently.

The Safari lost its WRC status in 2002 due to lack of government support and failure of the then Safari Rally Limited to meet its financial obligations to the FIA including Ksh2 million license fee.

The FIA felt slighted owing to the fact that a WRC Safari was injecting in excess of Ksh600 million directly into the Kenyan economy and over Ksh60 billion in indirect advertising through global television reaching over 1.5 billion viewers annually in 150 countries.

Last year, according to the WRC Promoter, the World Rally Championship reached a cumulative global audience of 775 million global TV audiences and generated over 9,150 broadcast hours in 150 countries. Over 1,300 journalists covered the events in over 1000 newspapers and magazines.

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