Rally News

Kenya president pushing for longer WRC Safari Rally

Takamoto Katsuta, Aaron Johnston, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

The Safari Rally is renowned as the most gruelling event on the WRC schedule testing drivers and teams to the absolute limit.

The event returned to the WRC calendar in 2021 after a 19-year hiatus but in a much shorter format. This year’s edition, operated by a new Kenyan organiser, will be contested over four days with crews covering 367.76 kilometres of timed stages.

In the past, the event was regarded as a marathon rally and when it adopted a special stage format from 1996-2002, it featured 1000km of competitive tests.

Speaking at Thursday’s ceremonial start for the 2024 edition, President Ruto outlined his wishes for the event to be extended in the future. 

“The Safari Rally runs for four days but we would like to revert to the old tradition when it featured longer distances. I direct our Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba to start engaging the FIA and the Promoter on possibilities of a much longer version of Safari,” said President Ruto.

There is a possibility that Ruto’s wishes could come to fruition, with the FIA and the WRC Promoter keen to explore the possibility of more flexible event schedules in the future. Introducing a variety of endurance and sprint rallies to the championship featured as part of the FIA’s vision for the future of top-level rallying, which was released last month.

Former WRC team boss David Richards, a member of the FIA’s working group, which is behind a raft of proposals to improve the WRC, told media that the world motorsport governing body is “open-minded” when it comes to the format of future events.

Takamoto Katsuta, Aaron Johnston, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: Toyota Racing

“We are trying to give organisers more scope and freedom to develop the rally that works for them,” he told media including Motorsport.com earlier this month.

“With the meeting in Kenya, they wanted to go outside Nairobi and have a second base in Mombasa, for instance, and do something of that nature.

“Let’s look at what they are proposing and see if it fits in. We’re not saying yes, we’re not saying no, but we are certainly saying let’s look at these ideas and see if it works for the World Rally Championship.

“At the moment I think we have been too prescriptive. We’ve created a formula which everyone’s had to work hard towards, and I think it is not necessarily in the best interest of the championship going forward.”

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