Third Eye

Invest more in local Safari Rally drivers

Friday, June 24th, 2022 04:30 | By

The Safari Rally extravaganza is back in town. Apart from the older Kenyans reminiscing about the sporting event during their younger days between the 1970s and 90s, many are trooping to Naivasha this weekend to witness the bonanza and cheer on their favourite drivers for the first time.

 In the days of yore, names such as Shekhar Mehta, Joginder Singh, Patrick Njiru, Vic Preston Jr, Carlos Sainz Sr, Prem and Pauru Chodha, Michelle Morton, Anwar Sidi and Rob Collinge among others, pumped life, fiesta and entertainment in the lives of millions of Kenyans and other racing enthusiasts around the world.

 The fete was a must-attend and every homestead had a fair share of Safari Rally memorabilia in the form of newspaper cuttings of their favourite drivers and the pomp that accompanied the sport.

This is the spirit that inspired the return of the rally last year. And yesterday, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced that the country would continue hosting the World Rally Championship for the next five years as per the agreement with the International Automobile Federation (FIA), a milestone in itself but also a bonus for the many lives that the rally will impact socially, emotionally and financially.

 In his address, the President said the rally injected Sh6 billion into the Kenyan economy last year and the hope is that the figure will rise this year.  There was, however, a moment of reflection when speakers at the event argued that it had become imperative to invest in local drivers and develop the sport beyond the elite circles.

This, we argue, is a legitimate observation and calls for both government agencies and the private sector to enter into partnerships that can champion this agenda. Over time, it should translate to Kenya’s presence in motorsports across the world, including having one of our own in Formula One.

 It is a fact motorsport is very expensive. But who thought golf would one day be played by all and sundry? All it took was for stakeholders to take action after coming to the conclusion that it was important to grow the sport. 

The same can be done with racing; the opportunities are innumerable. It is not just the drivers and co-drivers who are going to be engaged but also engineers, mechanics, logisticians and many more.

All those involved in the rally, from the drivers, fans and security officers, hospitality players and many others only need to play their part with diligence to develop and grow the sport into an institution and make it part of the national heritage.

As we showcase what the country has to offer to the world, let us think about investing in the sport so that Kenyan drivers can one day compete on the global stage.

For now, may the best driver win.

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