Yes, anyone can become a rally driver through new programme

Wednesday March 18 2020

I’ve been receiving inquiries, through this column, from Kenyans who wish to become rally drivers. One petrol station attendant in Rongai believes given a rally car, he can easily beat Carl Tundo.

Another Masai herder from Narok reckons he has enough land to sell and buy a rally car.

His only question is how and where he will start, or who will coach him.

Many want to know the “dates for the national trials to select Team Kenya for the 2020 WRC Safari Rally.”

The biggest drawback to all these Kenyans is none have cars but, in mitigation, they argue that neither did Patrick Njiru at the beginning, but he went on to become a champion driver of international repute.

The queries are endless...

First, there are no “national selection trials for the Safari,” nor can one enter any motorsport event in Kenya without a competition license issued by the Kenya Motor Sport Federation (KMSF). You also need a car meeting basic safety standards and a big budget to engage in motorsport.

But times are changing for beginners.

The International Automobile Federation (FIA) has come up with a programme to help national sports authorities identify budding youth aged between 17 and 25, like these inquisitive Kenyans, to become world-class drivers through the FIA Rally Star programme.

This is scheduled to be launched in mid-June during the FIA Sport Conference in Thailand.

This scheme will start at the bottom through Digital Motorsport, using driving simulators and the FIA Rally Star partner video game then move up in form of Motorkhana, which involves manoeuvring a production vehicle through a handling course.

This programme is open to all. KMSF, in our case, will also be allowed to use other talent assessment methods it deems fit to achieve this objective.

The FIA will distribute the simulator kits to its 144 ASN’s for use by their citizens through funding from FIA Innovation Funding (FIF).

The second level will involve an “FIA Tour” through six continental finals.

Continental champions will then compete against the clock behind the wheels of proper XC Cross Cars for each continent, plus one for the best woman driver in the world.

The students will then be subjected to intensive training by goodwill ambassadors and coaches in Europe to prepare them participate in a minimum of six rallies in Rally3 cars to further identify four drivers, including a female, who will join the FIA Junior WRC category in the WRC.

They will be trained to win rallies, the ultimate goal being the FIA WRC 3 crown after two seasons to be declared the FIA Rally Star champion and a chance to be noticed by big the factory teams.

The FIA aims to improve the global profile of the WRC currently dominated by drivers from Europe with the exception of Takamoto Katsuta of Japan in the WRC Toyota Gazoo Racing line up.

Possibly our Masai is next.

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