What is The Safari Rally?

Watching the cars racing in high speeds on Kenya’s dusty roads along the wild-life filled parks has never been better exemplified than through the Safari Rally competitions. For decades past, this event has been held in high esteem as a thrilling, adrenaline-spiking experience. Their memories are stored through photographs, video clips and drawings. 

The Safari Rally is a car racing competition which challenges motorsports crews and drivers to race in high speeds on Kenya’s unforgiving roads. 

It was unveiled in 1953 in Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika (presently Tanzania) to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The sport is subdivided into stages, with the challenge getting harder each stage onwards. The Safari Rally is one of the gems in the World Rally Championship (WRC) and it’s the crowning event of the WRC.

What Does WRC Safari Rally Mean?

The Safari Rally is one of the rounds required to win the World Rally Championship. The two events therefore depend on each other in a mutual manner. The 2021 Safari Rally fulfilled the sixth round of the thirteen rounds raced during the World Rally Championship 2021, World Rally Championship-2 and World Rally Championship-3 competitions. 

WRC Safari Rally is the World Rally Championship motorsport rally held in Kenya. 

It is done in phases, covering hundreds of kilometers in a high speed race on tough and usually rough roads in Kenya. It is a difficult race to win because of the unique stages it has and the speed it requires. The Safari Rally had become a WRC mainstay from 1973 to 2002, before it was halted for 19 years, only to return in 2021.

Where Is The Safari Rally Held?

With the event being undertaken on Kenya’s roads, which at the same time are open to the public, except during the day the racers are passing through them, it has been tagged the hardest rally of all time in the history books of WRC’s rounds. Going for a competitive distance of over 350 kilometers, the drivers must offer a conscientious eye to the landscape of the locations, escape any chances of overly rolling (in case of an accident) to the highways in public use and turn catastrophic. 

The Safari Rally is held in Kenya. 

Since its inception in 1953, this competition has been held in Kenya for the years when it has been on. It however brings together famous rally drivers from all over the planet. Some of the famous rally drivers who have been part of the intercontinental event include Lewis Hamilton, Nikhil Sachania, Kenya’s Kalle Rovanpera, Shekhar Mehta and Carl Tundo. The names of most of these experienced and iconic rally drivers have been written on the sands of the oceans, remaining alive in generations to come. Their uncountable victories and successful podium appearances have set them apart, ranking them on top of the list of world rally drivers of all time.

Why is Safari Rally Held In Kenya?

In 1960, the rally went by the name East African Safari Rally, way up to 1974, when it was again renamed Kenya Safari Rally, making it fully Kenyan and giving it the wherewithal to be held in Kenya. Nairobi and its environs, Naivasha and Taita Taveta, alongside other locations within the Great Rift Valley, have been host to the mind-blowing safari experience. 

The Safari Rally is held in Kenya because Kenyan roads offer the best experience of the event. Kenya’s Rift Valley, the plains and coastal region build up the essence of the motosport competition. 

It is also linked to the celebration of Queen Elizabeth II coronation which happened in 1953, leading to the unleashing of the competitions. Kenya was among two other East African countries which hosted the event- Tanzania and Uganda. The event was at that time called the East African Safari Rally until 1974, when it changed to Kenya Safari Rally.

How Long Is The Safari Rally?

For three to four days, the safari rally drivers have their wheels on the road, competing in high speeds on unpredictable weather, rough roads as well as on tarmacked, smooth roads, depending on the location of the famous event. 

The Kenyan held Safari Rally covers a distance of 363.44 kilometers,  which are further divided into 19 stages. 

That is the distance covered during the competitive 2021 Safari Rally held in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city and several other locations within the country. However, with the rally being held in different stages, which occur in different places, there is a transport distance, which covers the area between one event site to the other. The previous safari Rally had a transport distance of 860.33 km. This lengthened the total distance covered to 1223.77 kilometers.

How Many Years Has The Safari Rally Run?

For decades, the world has been treated to the amazing Safari Rally events. Though the competition had stopped for almost two decades, its resumption has been the debut of many talented and experienced rally drivers in Kenya and all over the world. 

The Safari Rally began in 1953. It was then enrolled as part of the Word Rally Championship in 1973, through to 2002. It was then halted from 2002 and resumed in 2021.

Since 2003, the rally has been held bi-annually until 2021. In 2013, Kenya’s fourth president, H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta announced his plans to get back the Safari Rally into the World Rally Championship. The bi-annual rally would then become an annual event as from 2021 when Kenya, courtesy of President Kenyatta, struck a deal with the World Rally Championship and the Safari Rally management to hold the Safari Rally annually in Kenya.

Why Was The Safari Rally Canceled?

In September 2019, the plans were ripe to have the 2020 edition of the Safari Rally be part of the World Rally Championship. The event was scheduled to take place in 2020 but was outrightly canceled a few months after the event. 

The event’s cancellation was due to the Covid-19 pandemic which had engulfed the country and the world at large. 

This was the second international event to be canceled specifically due to the coronavirus pandemic, after the Tokyo Olympic Games 2020. This unfortunate turn of events did not mark its end, however. Plans are currently underway to resume the event in 2023 onwards.

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