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Organisers have time to plan bigger Safari Rally after virus setback

Wednesday May 20 2020

President Uhuru Kenyatta flags off cars during the 2019 Safari Rally which was a candidate event for the 2020 World Rally Championships. To the President’s left is Safari Rally CEO Phineas Kimathi with Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed in red cap. The CS on May 15, 2020 confirmed that the 2020 Safari Rally has been postponed until next year. PHOTO | ANWAR SIDI |

President Uhuru Kenyatta flags off cars during the 2019 Safari Rally which was a candidate event for the 2020 World Rally Championships. To the President’s left is Safari Rally CEO Phineas Kimathi with Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed in red cap. The CS on May 15, 2020 confirmed that the 2020 Safari Rally has been postponed until next year. PHOTO | ANWAR SIDI |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

PETER NJENGA
By PETER NJENGA
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Though inevitable, the postponement of the Safari Rally, a World Rally Championship (WRC) series, caused by the Covid-19 pandemic should be viewed positively.

Kenya has been gifted the opportunity to ultimately deliver a world-class event ran with piston-like efficiency with no margin of error whatsoever at its own pace.

The government pushed forward the July 16-19 Safari Rally to 2021 after consultation with the International Motorsport Federation (FIA) and its commercial rights holder, WRC Promoter, effectively putting on hold its return to the high-profile WRC this year after seating out in the cold for 18 years.

All was well until Covid-19 arrived in China last year, sending the world in a whirlwind spin that threatened to vanquish many social and economic activities, including sport worldwide.

The WRC is one of the most affected global competition with only three events held this year. Governments of Argentina, Italy, and Portugal, and now Kenya, weighed their options. With international borders closed and movement became a major problem, cancellations were the only option.

Ultimately, human life supersedes everything else as the FIA has insisted. On the plus side, the WRC Safari Rally Chief Executive Officer Phineas Kimathi said organising the 2021 Safari, whose date will be announced later this year, is work in progress and that organisers will continue working according to this year’s July date schedules mind frame.

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This is the right approach, lest they become complacent and be caught flat-footed. Every aspect of the Safari was right on cue. Entries were to open last Saturday followed by media accreditation.

The patron of the Safari, President Uhuru Kenyatta, and the government must be lauded for prioritising the rally as a state project. This will make the event even bigger with support from KCB Bank that will help the iconic Safari Rally stand on its own financially.

We should also start thinking of how to conduct business in a post-Covid-19 era, its long-term effects, and or whether the pandemic will become endemic.

What is clear is that television and social media platforms will become the medium to reach the general populace, for social distancing is a lifestyle in waiting.

From the above, the media will also play a bigger role in promoting sporting events and for motor rally, a fully televised - in some instances live footage - of the Kenya National Rally Championship (KNRC) will be the launch pad of this new development.

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We wrote a few weeks ago about a brother- and-sister team of Benjamin Kariuki and Margaret Wangui’s exploits in rallying in the last six years of the 20th Century.

We caught up with them recently. They are still bubbling with enthusiasm occasioned by the reaction of people of Kiambu, many of who didn’t know they lived with a sporting family whose heroics remain a subject of legend.

Kariuki is reserved compared to Wangui who has a photographic memory, bearing it all. In one instance, in the KNRC Eldoret Rally, the duo was out of pocket after their car and logistics gobbled up all the cash they had from sale proceeds of a cow from their father, Kihara Kariuki, who was their main sponsor.

In the evening after scrutineering, they sneaked back into their Isuzu Gemini at the parking area at Sirikwa Hotel for a nap. But in the dead of the night, the watchman spotted them and alerted an official who read them the riot act. They were told the parking lot was a no-go area before the competition.

They were kicked out. This caught the attention of two guests who came to their rescue by surrendered their room at 1am and the Good Samaritans found alternative accommodation.

The interesting thing about this “mwananchi” rally team was the fan base they had created. They were quintessential of simplicity and the Spartan spirit prevalent in rally of the yore before rules were changed at the dawn of the new millennium, giving safety priority.

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