The latest WRC3 winner, Onkar Rai, hopes the success of last week’s Safari Rally Kenya will inspire other African nations to host a round of the World Rally Championship in the future.
Rai – driving a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 alongside Drew Sturrock – dominated proceedings in the RC2 class last week, leading the event from stage two onwards to claim a dominant class win as well as seventh place overall on the leaderboard.
He was one of several local Kenyan drivers to take part as he was joined on the WRC3 podium by compatriots Karan Patel and Carl Tundo.
Asked how important the WRC’s return to Africa after 19 years – coupled to the success of local drivers – was, Rai told DirtFish it’s “massive” for African rallying.
“We were discussing it in the car earlier; with the amount of corporates now that come onboard, it will spur on a whole new generation of younger drivers, hopefully some more money will go into the sport,” he said.
“And we’ll see, there is real talent out there, and the more the better. It only helps you raise your game.
“And for Africa, it’s an example that’s been set. Many, I’m sure many others will try to come to the table.
“There’s South Africa, there’s Zambia, there’s so many other places, Tanzania, and hopefully we have another round of the WRC in Africa. Maybe not exactly the Safari, but still in Africa.”
Tundo – a five-time winner of the Safari – echoed Rai’s sentiments, describing the WRC’s presence as an “absolute blessing” for Kenya.
“Nineteen years later, I think it’s good for the sport,” Tundo told DirtFish. “Hopefully it boosts our own local championship and rallying like it used to be back in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
“It was so cool to see the crowds out there, we’ve never seen crowds out there like this for the last 19 years, or more,” he added.
“And it’s great for the economy, and I hope to see it back, and look forward to the next one!”
Safari Rally Kenya will remain on the World Rally Championship schedule until at least 2026, although no other African nations have indicated any interest in welcoming the WRC as yet.
Ivory Coast is the only other African country aside from Kenya to have hosted a counting round of the WRC. Rallye Côte d’Ivoire ran from 1978-92.