FIA to decide way forward for Africa Rally Championships

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020 00:00 |
Veteran Kenyan drivers Carl Tundo (left) and Baldev Chager who were expecting a busy season before Covi-ap struck. Photo/PD/PHILIP KAMAKYA

As a number of organisers make tentative steps towards a possible return to competition worldwide, the fate of the FIA African Rally Championship (ARC) in 2020 remains in the balance.

The postponed World Rally Championship (WRC) Safari Rally Kenya was to also double up as the fifth round of the FIA African Rally Championship (ARC) and the KCB KNRC 2020.

The iconic Safari Rally, initially set for July 16-19, was moved to 2021 following an agreement between the Government of Kenya, WRC Promoters and he International Automobile Association (FIA).

FIA Africa representative Surinder Thatthi said of Safari’s postponement : “ARC is also affected and with Safari and Uganda already called off, we have to wait until May 28 when the FIA Rally Commission meets to decide the way forward for the ARC.”

Other events affected in the 2020 ARC calendar are the York Rally of South Africa whose organisers opted out due to logistical challenges while Rwanda Mountain Gorilla Rally was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Rwanda Mountain Gorilla Rally, which was the third round of the FIA continental series initially on the weekend of May 15-17 was postponed due to the coronavirus.

The move was informed by the uncertainty of the effects of the pandemic and the directives put in place by the government of Rwanda.

Rwanda Automobile Club president Christian Gakwaya said in an interview that the club will work on getting new dates for the event tentatively in October this year.

The next scheduled ARC event after Rwanda is the Zambia International Motor Rally in June.

The 2020 Africa Rally Championship had run only one event, the Rallye Bandama in Ivory Coast.

Rally South Africa’s withdrawal from the championship left the series with only six events of the seven.

“The whole world and our continent included is at risk with this novel virus. Sport has stopped everywhere and it is unfortunate that our return to WRC Safari Rally is effected by this new world order. 

We have to ensure we don’t endanger any lives by spreading this virus and the Kenyan government has made a wise decision,” Surinder added. 

Meanwhile, rally drivers reckon that WR  Safari Rally postponement is a blessing in disguise.

Multiple former Kenya Two Wheel Drive Champion Leonardo Varese said it is disappointing “but we have to live with the fact that we facing a global situation that exceeds us and 2021 will give Kenyan organisers a realistic chance to bring the dream to fruition.”

Leo offered: “It’s sad but no option really. It is in line with all sporting events worldwide.

Until August, nothing major will happen in my opinion, and with all airports closed until early next month, there was not much time either on the positive. We have all waited for 18 years, one more is nothing.”

Reigning champion and series leader Baldev Chager observed that  postponing the event was the right decision and the safest thing to have done.

“Health of all involved is priority. The world is struggling and all kinds of sports events are hard hit. It’s just how it is and we hope and pray the virus goes away as fast as it came in,” said Chager, who has entered only one WRC Safari in 1998 when he came 15th with Tinu Khan in a Subaru Legacy.

Defending KNRC Division One navigators’ champion Victor Okundi said: “As a competitor, it’s mixed feelings with the postponement because we have been really holding our breath for this opportunity to be part of motorsport history. 

I mean the WRC would be a very big feather on my tiny hat! But at the same time the Covid-19 pandemic is worldwide.” 

“I was a little apprehensive about how the logistics surrounding such a huge event was going to pan out. 

It could have been a nightmare reflecting back on the kind of crowds we usually get in the Safari. I remember last year accommodation was a challenge and that was just the candidate event,” added Okundi.

Daren Miranda, who is the reigning Two Wheel champion and leader said it was necessary considering what is going on in the world right now.

“I don’t think there was a choice,” said Miranda, who did the IRC (Intercontinental Rally Challenge) Safari in 2007. 

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