Six weeks. Or 40 days. Or, not many hours. That’s how much longer we have to wait here in Africa.
Let’s be honest, it’s been 19 years minus a couple of weeks since the World Rally Championship last set foot in Kenya. We can wait those 40 more days.
We can wait, because, unless you’ve been living on the moon, you can’t help but fail to notice the Safari Rally is back! Officially we should be calling it Safari Rally Kenya, but the most important thing is to welcome the world’s fastest drivers and the world’s fastest cars back to this continent.
I’m Gurvir Bhabra, clerk of the course for Safari Rally Kenya. As well as working to deliver round six of this year’s World Rally Championship, I’m going to be writing you a diary for the next six weeks to let you know what we’re up to out here.
Right now, the organization is still largely based in the office in Nairobi. We have stuff to be doing in the capital city – like you can imagine there’s a lot of work goes into running a ceremonial start in Nairobi – but the main work is up in Naivasha.
To say that I’m fairly well acquainted with the A104 north out of Nairobi towards Naivasha is a bit of an understatement…
It’s not the most exciting stretch of road in terms of driving experience, but I’ve driven it hundreds of times, morning, noon and night and it always brings a smile to the face.
For those of you who haven’t been to Africa before – and there will be lots of you, with the WRC having missed a generation in Kenya – you need to understand that this place is different to anywhere else on the planet. And better than anywhere else.
I’m biased. It’s home for me, but Africa is some special, special place. There are sights, sounds and smells here which you never, never forget.
A bit like the first time you see a giraffe crossing the A104 just before the sun’s up in the morning. That certainly gets the attention.
At the moment we’re all basking in the glory of a fantastic final practice event with the Equator Rally.
That event ran towards the end of last month and included seven of the 11 stages we’re including on the Safari route. The great thing from an organizers perspective was the weather. It absolutely poured with rain the night before the start. It was proper Safari storm spec. The hippos were absolutely delighted with the mud, but it was Carl Tundo in his Volkswagen Polo R5 who mastered the conditions better than anybody else.
It’s so important for us to get a look at what the weather can do to the roads. We haven’t had much rain and it’s easy to forget just how quickly the conditions and the grip level can change.
In many ways, I hope we get some rain like this in June – wouldn’t it be fantastic to recreate some of those old classic Safari pictures with the cars covered in black cotton mud?
Another fantastic thing about the Equator Rally was the government involvement. We had president Kenyatta with us as well as our fantastic culture and heritage cabinet secretary Amina Mohamed.
Amina has been such a massive supporter of the Safari Rally returning to Kenya. Right from the start, her backing has been 110%. Like so many of us involved in this great event, she remembers watching the Safari come through her village at Easter time in days gone by.
So, everything is set. We’re ready.
As the time comes closer, keep reading DirtFish and I’ll keep you informed with what’s going on in Kenya.