President Uhuru Kenyatta has announced that Kenya will continue hosting the World Rally Championship for the next five years as per the sealed agreement with the International Automobile Federation (FIA).
The President spoke on Thursday at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) where he flagged off the second edition of the World Rally Championship.
President Kenyatta flagged off the first ten rally cars which included Kenyan teams comprising of McRae Kimathi, Maxine Wahome, Jeremy Wahome, Hamza Anwar and the French megastars Sebastian Ogier and his namesake Sebastien Loeb who are gracing the iconic Kenyan fixture for the second time.
The Head of State, who is the patron of the rally, said the sport boosted the county’s economy by injecting Ksh.6 billion during the first edition last year.
“The historic nature of this rally is undeniable. Last year (2021), a record of 78 million people in 150 countries watched the rally. In addition, the rally was of great benefit to the country, injecting approximately Ksh.6 billion in our economy, with every sector sharing in the pie, including: players in the hospitality and transport sectors as well as micro, small and medium enterprises in Naivasha and its surrounding towns,” President Kenyatta said.
The Head of State expressed optimism that this year’s event will be bigger and attract more spectators across the globe, projecting Kenya as an attractive investment destination choice.
“We expect that this year’s event will be bigger and even better. Already, the enthusiasm by spectators and the euphoria in cities and towns across the country is unmistakable. This is a clear indication of the close connection that Kenyans of all ages and from different parts of the country have with this sport,” he said.
He thanked FIA, the World Rally Championship team and all stakeholders for organizing the successful event, saying the Safari Rally enjoys a special place in the country’s national heritage as it tells the story of its rich cultural tapestry, the warmth of its people and the diversity of its splendor.
“It is an iconic event tied to the history of our country, to the history of sports in Kenya and East Africa and to our determination to juxtapose the modern world with our natural beauty,” he said.
Noting that Kenya’s Safari Rally is one of the toughest in the world, President Kenyatta said the motorsport is a perfect fusion of human and machine, adding that it attracts millions of fans and enthusiasts globally.
“Indeed, the Safari Rally is one of the toughest rallies in the World Rally Championship series, with a remarkable course that takes drivers into Kenya’s undulated wild and in close view of our diverse wildlife.
“The Safari Rally has inspired many generations of Kenyans to dream of achieving unparalleled excellence. It is an event that unifies Kenyans of all walks of life, through our shared love of excellence, determination, and triumph against the odds,” he said.
As this year’s Safari Rally is happening at the height of political campaigns in the country, President Kenyatta said the event is a reminder to the nation that competition is not enmity and that all Kenyans should understand that they can compete against each other but accept the outcome with dignity and grace.
“Indeed, it underscores a key principle that we need to cherish; how we run the race is more important than the result since a ‘win by any means necessary’ runs contrary to our values,” he said.
Sports, Culture and Heritage CS Amina Mohamed thanked President Kenyatta for ensuring that the global event came back to Kenya after 19 years.
CS Amina pointed out that his determination and commitment has borne fruits that will see the country host the event uninterrupted for the next five years.
“Most importantly is the promise that you made to Kenyans since 2013 that you have kept, today there is absolutely no doubt in any one’s mind that that promise has not only been kept for the duration of your Presidency but your are keeping it until 2026,” said CS Amina.
President of the Federation International de I’Automobile, Mohammed bin Sulayem, expressed the need to encourage regional competitions for the sport to thrive.
“For the sport to continue to grow and to be accessible to more people the success of regional competitions is crucial and we are proud that the African rally championships is growing strong in providing a platform for not just drivers to developing new skill but also Engineers, mechanics, logistics people and requisite,” Sulayem said.
Other speakers at the event included KCB Chairman Andrew Wambare Kairu and Kenya Motor Sports Federation Chairman Phineas Kimathi.