For over half a century, the World Rally Championship (WRC) thrilled fans around Kenya with the legendary Safari Rally. The countryside then was rugged, beautiful, wild and untouched. It provided the perfect backdrop for the ultimate test of man and machine. Today, devolution has modernised a bit of the landscape, but a few uncharted spots still remain. They offer the opportunity to push technology, skill and sheer grit to their limits. This coming June, from the 24th to the 27th, a sporting heritage will make its grand re-entrance from these very places. The Safari Rally is coming back home to roost after a nineteen-year break. It will mark sixty-nine years since the ‘toughest rally in the world’ got a life of its own at a bar in Limuru! Its founder, Eric Cecil, his cousin and a friend had met over a drink when the idea popped.
As if paying homage to its birthplace, some of the action will happen in Kiambu County. Of course, before Kiambu, the roaring drama will kick off with its usual colourful flag-off at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi. Then in Naivasha, the real fun will begin. The show here will open to spectacular views of Lake Elementaita before passing through the Sleeping Warrior. Towering 2,200 M high, the Sleeping Warrior resembles a man lying on his back, hence its name. In Naivasha, a one-of-a-kind Service Park at the Kenya Wildlife Service Training Institute awaits the drivers and their crew. The new asphalt park is the biggest ever in the World Rally Championship history.
The four-day spectacle will cover 797 KM. But would you believe it, the first Safari Rally covered a whopping 5,160 KM – much of it through hostile territory? Kenya was then under a state of emergency because of the Mau Mau uprising. The last thing the natives wanted to see was a mzungu traversing land he had just stolen from them!
The World Rally Championship initially planned for 2020 never happened because of COVID-19. It would have been longer (1,024 KM). All of that is now behind us, and come next month, an estimated 70 million television viewers in 150 countries will feast their eyes on the beauty of a country and the marvel of man’s quest to push boundaries. This is one event that should not miss on your bucket list this year!