Equator Rally dress rehearsal for June's WRC Safari Rally
Never before has a continental sporting event generated so much international media attention as this weekend’s ARC Equator Rally that brings together 37 drivers fielding the latest, second-tier competition machines.
The five-time Safari Rally winner (as an African championship round) Carl Tundo was thrown a machine upgrade lifeline by Minti, a UK-based motorsports team, who have given him a VW Polo R5 racer. Minti has also revived the memories of the old Safari and the Group B golden era by nominating the 1994 Safari champion Ian Duncan to drive the famed Nissan 240RS.
Duncan has the temperament, skills plus speed to give drivers in lighter, smaller cars a run for their money.
Apart from nostalgia for Group B lovers, it will be interesting to see how the technology of 35 years ago will fair against modern rally cars.
The Equator Rally is a dry run for the WRC Safari, returning to the world circuit after 19 years, June 24-27.
The world of motorsport is very keen to see whether Kenya is ready to host the big one and a testament of Kenya’s special place in the global rallying fraternity. A filming company, mandated by the FIA has given locals the mandate to shoot a short documentary which will be used worldwide, for this reason, to promote the WRC Safari.
The organisers are leaving nothing to chance to give the world a sneak preview of Kenya is ready as a country and host of an international event.
The Safari’s journey back to the WRC started on June 29, 2017, when the chairman of the Kenya Motor Sports Federation (KMSF) Phineas Kimathi made his first pitch of Kenya’s desire to return to the WRC circuit in an initiative started by President Uhuru Kenyatta four years earlier when he attended the FIA Sports Conference in Turin, Italy.
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since. While the FIA and its commercial rights holder, WRC Promoter appreciated Kenya’s long, chequered history of organising motorsport events, they expressed their desire to return to Africa.
However, the WRC of 2002 was totally different from the international circuit of the third decade of the 21st century.
Therefore, they were ready to offer Kenya the requisite know-how by sending seasoned experts to Nairobi once the Safari was confirmed as a “WRC Candidate Event.”
This has been work in progress since. The government came forward by legalising the Organising Committee through a special Gazette Notice, provided funds and resources to organise the 2019 Candidate Event.