FIA president Jean Todt has revealed that the Safari Rally will not be on the World Rally Championship calendar next year.
Todt visited last month’s Safari Rally, which ran as a round of the African Championship.
He said: “I am pushing [for the Safari’s return]. It’s true that I would be very happy if the WRC could host one event in Africa in the coming years. FIA is global, WRC is global and I already feel Africa shouldn’t be lost.
“There is a process you have to go through if you want to be in the championship. The Safari Rally was not the main reason I was in Africa, I took the opportunity to meet Kenyan President [Uhuru] Kenyatta, and the motorsport federation and I saw great enthusiasm. But I said that they need to be a candidate event to demonstrate they can justify being included in the calendar. It won’t be in 2019.”
Key to the Safari’s return will be a heavily revised nature of the stages. While Todt is keen to see endurance remain part of rallying’s DNA, he’s well aware that competition on open roads is no longer possible in Kenya.
“If we host one event in Africa, all the security measures will be taken,” he said. “We know what was possible 30 years ago is not acceptable anymore. Even in a rally in Corsica you used to go flat-out on road sections. Times are changing, sometimes for the good, sometimes not so good for the enthusiasts, but that’s the way it goes.”
Todt’s presence in Corsica might have been interpreted by some as a message to the promoter – with France’s WRC counter understood to be under pressure due to the comparatively small number of spectators and the expense and logistics involved with getting to the island.
“I love Corsica and I think it’s a very good venue,” said Todt. “When you see the roads, they are unique. I went by helicopter in SS6 and I saw a lot of spectators with a great improvement on safety for the spectators, they are doing a great job. I think Corsica is the perfect venue to be hosted by the World Rally Championship.”