The Safari Rally is expected to be postponed or canceled this week – but even if that decision isn’t made World Rally Championship teams have told DirtFish they won’t be traveling to Africa in July.
The organizer of the Kenyan event has been in discussion with the FIA, WRC Promoter and the teams through last week concerning the effect COVID-19 may have on the event’s running. Sources have suggested further meetings this week, but the teams are now ready to make their own decisions.
Beyond the duty of care to staff, teams are frustrated that a decision has not been taken – with costs now being incurred to produce what will be Safari-specific cars.
FIA rally director Yves Matton told DirtFish: “Our understanding is that the teams are on hold at the moment because of the current situation. However, we are monitoring the situation weekly with them and the WRC Promoter and in particular regarding Kenya’s Safari Rally.”
Hyundai team principal Andrea Adamo said there was little appetite for the July 16-19 event.
“I don’t know if this issue is the only one that may affect the Safari,” Adamo told DirtFish. “I don’t know exactly how the situation is there.
“I don’t want to be misunderstood, and I know that after the sentence I’m going to say, somebody will create a polemic, but we have to be realistic and I have to care for my people: are we sure that in July we can [be] comfortable sending 90 people in Kenya to do a rally? At this moment I am not.
“It’s a difficult time and we have enough difficult times here. I would love to be there, it’s something that’s in the calendar and it’s something we have to defend, but not at any cost.”
Even though the event is three months away, Adamo said it was too much of a risk to commit to the Safari.
He added: “I make questions to myself. If you make questions, you have to find answers. With answers you can manage a company.
“My job is to take decisions and to take those decisions I need a clear picture. If that picture is not clear then I don’t put my people in any danger.”
One team member pointed out the more prosaic issues facing them, saying: “Even if the promoter says this is going ahead, we’re not going.
“We’re talking to insurance companies right now [about taking staff to Kenya] and they’re coming back and asking if we’re having a laugh!”
On the subject of the cars and car builds, Toyota’s technical director Tom Fowler outlined the situation.
“I don’t understand why we’re not saying [it’s off] already,” said Fowler. “At the moment we’re planning the build of those cars.
“It’s Safari, it’s very rough, it’s very different to anything we’ve done before and we won’t be alone in the planning some specific parts for those cars. At the moment, we’re manufacturing those parts and planning the build of those cars – that’s time and money.
“And it’s effort from people trying to respect the regulations of their countries to work from home and work only on essential tasks. Effectively, to my mind, we’re working on cars which are never going to be used.”