Kenya’s motor racing sport, the Safari Rally, on Friday, made its final bid to rejoin the prestigious World Rally Championships (WRC) with President Uhuru Kenyatta flagging off 49 elite drivers for a candidate event.

The rally will cover over 796 kilometres in three days. Kenya was part of the World Rally Championship for several years until 2002, when it was dropped due to mismanagement.

The flag off was historic for a motor race that could usher Kenya back to the global arena. Nairobi also played host to the super stage where rally starters warmed up ahead of the three day race.

However this was no ordinary race.  “This rally is very important because 18 years Kenya and Africa has been out of WRC,” says Safari rally Chief Executive Officer Phineas Kimathi.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta says, “We are committed to meeting all automobile federation regulations, standards and requirements so that Kenya may once again feature at the apex of global rallying.”

More than 51 crews will take part in the 14-stage route which covers 786 kilometres, 256 of which are competitive. Until 2002, when Kenya was dropped from the WRC, the Safari Rally was the world’s toughest rally.

For Kenya this is more than just getting back to the WRC series, it is also about economics. “It will have a huge impact, and we hope people can stay after the Safari and that way we benefit,” says one of the rally drivers.

 Spectators lined the streets of villages where the vehicles passed through on the first day.