Safari Rally is an old tradition in Kenya. In fact, the first Safari Rally was held in pre-colonial times, and specifically in 1953.
It was born as the East African Coronation Rally as a motoring event to commemorate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II of England who was on holiday in Kenya a year earlier when she learnt of the death of her father, King George VI. Thanks to a few die-hard fans of the event, it has maintained its fame throughout the years. Now, Safaricom has partnered with the Safari Rally team as the event makes its return to the World Rally Championship (WRC) calendar for the first time in close to two decades.
As part of the sponsorship, three young Kenyan drivers have been selected to be part of the Federation Internationale des Automobile (FIA) Rally Star programme. This is a global initiative aimed at identifying, training, and developing talented young drivers between 17-26 years, thereby putting the three Kenyans on an international scale in the competition.
Safaricom’s sponsorship cost 17.5 Million Kenya shillings, and part of the sponsorship includes 15 million Kenya shillings for the FIA Rally Star Programme. The CEO Mr. Peter Ndegwa expressed that Safaricom has always believed in supporting the youth by giving them a platform to showcase their talent and to excel. Through the FIA programme, they will be able to support the World Rally Championship Safari Rally while also pursuing their passion point of empowering youth.
The three Kenyan drivers who were 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. The objective of the 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 identifying those with the greatest potential to target a professional career.
Jeremy Wahome, who started go-karting at the age of 8 in the Rift Valley Motorsports club championship, is passionate about the Safari Rally. At age 18, he took part in the British Formula Three Championship. He is also studying at Cheltenham College and recently set up a library in Kibera.
Then we have Hamza Anwar, who is a second-generation rally driver. He has been racing in many formats in the motorsport world and is now fully absorbed in the rally world. Recently, he participated in the African Rally Championship Equator Rally and emerged in 5th place, becoming the youngest finisher of the Equator Rally. His eyes are now set on the 2021 WRC Safari Rally.
Lastly, Mutwiri Kimathi, who started rallying at age of 15, is also looking forward to participating in the World Rally Championship 2021. His interest in being a rally driver was sparked at an early age since he hails from a motorsport family with his dad, Phineas Kimathi, having been a Formula 2 champion during his hey-days. His most recent finish was 8th at the 2021 African Rally Championship Equator Rally.
The Safari Rally, which was originally known as the world’s toughest rally, is set to take place from the 24th to 27th June. 58 rally drivers including 34 Kenyan racers are set to participate. The race aims to showcase the beauty of the East African landscape with vehicles racing through world-famous game parks, with overnight stops at the region’s finest lodges and hotels.