Why Kimathi’s appointment to FIA commission is important

Monday May 20 2019

Kenya Motor Sports Federation chairman Phones Kimathi (left) with International Automobile Federation official and former World Rally Championships driver Michelle Mouton at the at Hell's Gate National Park during Mouton’s recent visit to Kenya. Kimathi has been appointed to the FIA’s World Rally Championship Commission. PHOTO | ANWAR SIDI |


Kenya Motor Sport Federation (KMSF) chairman Phineas Kimathi was last weekend appointed to an important commission of the International Automobile Federation (FIA).

Kimathi, a restaurateur and former rally driver, will serve in FIA’s 17-member World Rally Championship Commission headed by Asia, Caribbean and Pacific rallying boss, Portugal’s Carlos Barbosa, assisted by Finnish rallying great Timo Rautianen, and will handle the interests of Africa and the Middle East.

The appointment at FIA’s meeting in Geneva last Friday comes hot on the heels of the annual FIA Congress held in Sun City, South Africa, where Kenya’s Safari Rally’s bid to make a comeback into the World Rally Championships’ annual calendar received tremendous support from key industry players.

I have previously exhorted Kenyan sports officials to fight and get into positions of authority and influence in international federations, because it’s from within that they can fight for Kenya’s various interests.

For instance, the fact that the 5,000 metres race was controversially struck off the television roster of the IAAF Diamond League series is partly attributed to the fact that Kenya and Ethiopia – two of the world’s leading athletics nations – have no representative on the decision-making Council of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

Since the demise of former Athletics Kenya (AK) President Isaiah Kiplagat and the striking of David Okeyo off athletics management by the IAAF, Kenya has not been represented on the Council of the Monaco-based global track and field governing body.


It’s a good sign, however, that current AK President Jack Tuwei was last month elected Vice-President of the Confederation of African Athletics at the organisation’s elections in Abidjan as this should have him on the threshold of a place on the IAAF Council, eventually.

Besides Kimathi, National Olympic Committee of Kenya President Paul Tergat is one of few Kenyans serving in global sports organisations with his role as member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), where he serves in three commissions (Audit, Olympic Education, Athletes’ Entourage), already holding Kenya in good stead with various Olympic goodies headed our way.

Kimathi’s presence in the FIA’s World Rally Championship Commission will help further argue Kenya’s case for the return on the Safari Rally onto the global circuit after this year’s candidate rally to be run from July 5 to 7 around Nairobi, Nakuru and Kiambu counties.

The fact that the Safari has been slotted into the 2020 WRC pre-calendar is already an indication that the once world’s toughest rally is getting its groove back, angling to make a return to the prestigious circuit for the first time since 2002 when it was struck off for various reasons, including safety and sponsorship concerns.

That the Kenyan government is solidly behind this push, bankrolling the Kasarani-based WRC Safari Rally Project headed by Kimathi as CEO, is further proof that Kenya is serious in efforts to win back global acclaim.

A positive word by FIA officials Michelle Mouton, Iain Campbell and Jarno Lehtinen, who recently visited Kenya on fact-finding and inspection missions, will further help catapult the Safari back onto the global circuit.

Kimathi had previously met with FIA President Jean Todt and WRC managing director Oliver Ciesla to lobby support for the Safari Rally and his entry into the FIA management system will most certainly now offer further impetus to Kenya’s efforts which, fortunately, have no lesser person than President Uhuru Kenyatta as patron.