Safaricom has announced a Sh17.5 million sponsorship for the Safari Rally as the event makes its return to the World Rally Championship calendar for the first time in close to two decades.
The sponsorship includes Sh15 million which will go towards supporting three young Kenyan drivers selected as part of the FIA Rally Star programme.
The three drivers who have been selected for the FIA Rally star programme include Jeremy Wahome and Hamza Anwar who are both aged 22 as well as 26-year-old McRae Mutwiri Kimathi.
“This is a global initiative aimed at identifying, training and developing talented young drivers between 17-26 years, “CEO Peter Ndegwa said on Wednesday.
Ndegwa said they have always believed in supporting the youth by giving them a platform to showcase their talent and to excel, whether this is through sports, music or the arts.
“The three young Kenyan drivers we’ll be supporting have the potential to become the next big stars and with the Safari Rally now back on the WRC calendar, they get to showcase their talents on an international stage,” he said.
Ndegwa said the ultimate objective of FIA Rally Star programme is to develop drivers who have the potential to become future stars of the World Rally Championship by encouraging the emergence of a new generation of drivers.
“…and to identify those with the greatest potential to target a professional career,” President of the Kenya Motorsport Federation and CEO WRC Safari Rally Phineas Kimathi said.
58 rally drivers including 34 Kenyan racers are set to participate in this year’s Safari Rally which will take place from 24th to 27th June.
The fabled Safari Rally has always mesmerised the world.
Over the years, the annual event had gained ground as a legendary fixture in the global motorsports calendar before it was dropped from the FIA World Rally Championship and relegated to the African Rally Championship from 2003.
Kenyan organisers returned to the drawing board in an effort to regain the event’s lost glory.
In their first attempt, Kenya Motor Sport Federation ran the 2003 and 2004 editions on the South Coast to woo the world automobile governing body, FIA.
In 2007, Kenya’s Safari Rally joined the Intercontinental Rally Challenge for one year for the first time since 2002.
The Fiat Abarth Grande Punto S2000 works cars driven by Andrea Navarra and Umberto Scandola graced the iconic event.
Local tourism is set to benefit immensely from WRC’s cumulative global TV audience of 850 million viewers across both the mainstream and social media.
The safari will benefit from 25 hours of live TV coverage in 155 TV markets.
Kenya is also hoping to plant 18 million trees across the Safari Rally route to celebrate the years the event has been out of the FIA series.
Rally Navigator Wayne Fernandes reckons that the safari holds iconic status across the world and the region.