Great Memories of pampered mechanical beasts, with great aftermarket engine tuning, roaring through dirt roads came to mind as the return of the Safari Rally to the global stage of the World Rally Championship was official re-endorsed during the visit of International Automobile Federation (FIA) president Jean Todt.
Jean Todt who is an ardent supporter of safari rally and a former rally driver, was in the country to launch the WRC Safari Rally Greening Legacy Project.
The project aim at planting 19 million trees over the next three years. The planting of 19 million trees symbolizes the 19 years Safari has been out of the WRC calendar.
Todt lauded Kenya’s WRC Safari Rally organisers for the efforts they have put in place to ensure the Safari Rally`s return to World Rally Championship (WRC) calendar.
FIA President Jean Todt, along with AMB. Amina Mohamed, CS James Macharia and WRC Safari Rally Chief Executive Officer Phineas Kimathi, planted trees to kick start the project.
As depicted by a journalist friend, for the millennials, 2021 Safari will offer the first ever chance to fiddle their thumps on a keyboard or smart phone keypad to post about the event that since its inception in the 1950s remains one of the country’s biggest sporting export to the world.
To those who followed the annual Safari rally ritual when it was billed as ‘world’s toughest rally’ until 2002 when the WRC pulled the plug, the return to the global stage sparked nostalgic memories of when it was a signature spectacle that gifted Kenya new sporting celebrities every year.
At the height of its fame throughout the 1980s and 90s, the Safari dominated airwaves. For most children who grew up around that time, it was bigger than school holidays. Patrick Njiru, Phineas Kimathi and the late Jonathan Toroitich were catapulted to national heroes having proven that indigenous Kenyans could compete with the best drivers in the world and their expensive works team.
Other Safari legends include the late Joginder Singh, the late Shekhar Mehta, the late Richard Bruns, 1994 Kenyan winner Ian Duncan who is still racing to date, Azar Anwar and Massimo ‘Miki’ Biasion, Bjorn Waldegard, Kenjiro Shinozuka, Yoshio Fujimoto, Carlos Sainz, Hannu Mikkola, Juha Kankkunen and Tommi Makinen.
The world has changed since then and from next year; a new cycle of Safari stars will be born with Kenyans waiting to watch the skills of WRC frontrunners including Sebastien Ogier, Ott Tanak, Thierry Neuville and Andreas Mikkelsen take on local hotshots such as five-time Safari winner, Carl ‘Flash’ Tundo, Baldev Chager, Duncan, Onkar Rai and Manvir Baryan among others.