Wednesday, 25 June 2008
Image courtesy of Motorsport Kenya
For what used to be one of the rallying world's favourite race, the Safari Rally ( KCB Safari Rally...pardon me for missing that), another year out of the World Rally Championship means another missed opportunity and less profile.
2002 marked the last year that the event was to be in the WRC circuit and the rallying chiefs threatened to throw the rally out which they eventually did. Come 2003 the rally was competing for reinstatement to the circuit and I remember having to vote over the Internet to have this done. Again an exercise in futility.
Among the issues the WRC personnel raised was the
- sponsorship which was inconsistent,
- lack of proper safety measures especially spectators,
- rising costs of shipping and transportation,
- media rights and coverage,
- unpredictable weather and climatic conditions ( well this one was a bit low)
True some of the issues raised were worth considering but I still feel the event CAN & SHOULD BE REINSTATED. Watching some of the events of the WRC circuit shows a serious miss of the African circles and also the rough-and-tumble which Safari Rally was famous for. Even the most experienced drivers can confess that this represented one of the best rallies to prove your mettle and the manufacturers to prove their vehicles too.
Having some Kenyans in the decision-making bodies of the FIA and WRC has not helped our cause either and as usual the Government went into slumber right after the hyped campaign in 2003. Can't the Minister for Sports and Youth along with the Tourism one work something out ?
That way, the WRC would ensure true world coverage of rallying events as well as retention of one of the oldest rallies (before it fell by the way side).
I read somewhere about the Pirelli Rally Star Promotion for the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa. Why do they always rank us with the Arabs ? It's like we can't exist on our own ! I lament !
The promotion's intent is to invest in growth of rallying worldwide and, in particular, help younger competitors reach World Championship level. The successful drivers from each year will then contest a series of six World Championship rallies the following season, driving identical Group N or Super 2000 cars supplied and serviced under an FIA contract with a specialist preparation company. The competitors must be under the age of 27 on 1st January in the year of the Regional Championship.
The programme will be structured through the four FIA Regional Championships, with one driver emerging from each of the Middle East, Asia-Pacific and Africa regions.
Noble idea, wrong and tedious approach ,methinks!
I believe the most effective way of raising and developing drivers is having more events from the WRC circuit in the specific countries- like the Safari Rally....tsk !
That way the local talent will be able to actually interact with the top cream of the sport and not wait in the wings like this competition portends.
UPDATE ON THIS YEAR'S KCB SAFARI RALLY:
* The Rally start tomorrow Friday, with the cars being flagged off at 3.00 p.m, before proceeding to the 1st in 3 spectator stages at the Uhuru Park at the heart of the City. The other spectator stages include the Elementaita Lodge (Saturday) in the Rift Valley; with the final one being at the East Africa Portland at Athi River just off Mombasa Road but much closer to the city.
* This year's rally will be the shortest ever covering just over 668km compared to the longest one held in 1971 (covering East Africa states)-6400km.This will be the 56th rally since it started as the Coronation Rally back in 1952-marking the coronation of then Princess Elizabeth into a Queen. So much for royalty,can't we have a semblance of what the rally used to be back then ?
* WRC and FIA officials will be attending the event again but let's not get excited yet. The last 5 years have meant nothing with these guys around. We want to see the event back at the WRC.
* Most of the rally cars will not be the works team i.e. the manufacturers' group A cars competing in other WRC events ( since it's not a WRC event anyway). Majority will be from Group N and classical rally cars. Watch out for Ian Duncan's Ford Mustang ( something like the one next)
* KCB will be the main sponsors with Triton ,iWay, KICC among others sponsors.