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Major boost for Safari Rally's hopes of WRC calendar return

Colin McRae Ford WRC Safari Rally 2002

The Safari Rally's hopes of a World Rally Championship return have been given a £1.8million boost from the Kenyan government.

A bid to get Nairobi back on the WRC calendar by 2020 has been supported by Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta and neighbouring Uganda.

Some of the funding will be used to establish the WRC Safari Rally Project, which will oversee the organisation and development of a WRC-style Safari Rally later this year and a potential candidate event next season.

Kenya's cabinet secretary for sport Hassan Wario said: "The sanctioning of the Safari Rally as a premier continental rally by the FIA to be held in Kenya in 2018 [comes] with the hope of achieving full WRC [status] by 2020."

FIA president Jean Todt has long supported the WRC returning to Africa, discussing it with President Kenyatta back in 2015.

Motorsport Uganda chairman Dusman Okee also pressed Africa's case for a first world championship Safari since 2002 with WRC Promoter Oliver Ciesla late last year.

Gilles Panizzi Safari Rally 2002

Ciesla said: "We recognise the Safari's long and proud history in the FIA World Rally Championship and the place it holds in the hearts of Kenya's population.

"We welcome the sincere passion and the strong efforts and commitment which the country's government and the Kenya Motorsports Federation is injecting into the project of returning the WRC to Africa.

"We are committed to hosting a WRC round on the African continent in the near future and will continue to work closely alongside the government and federation with the goal of seeing the Safari Rally back on the WRC calendar."

The Safari Rally has continued to run since it was dropped from the WRC calendar 16 years ago, but the modern-day African Championship version is a shadow of the event's heyday.

A return to the WRC would likely mean a route similar to the 2002 event, which included 627 competitive miles in 12 sections across three days.

Canada also chasing WRC slot

WRC Canada 1977

While Kenya is targeting a WRC return in 2020, Canada is hoping to be back in the WRC for the first time since 1979 in 2022 (1977 event pictured above).

Canada's plans remain very much in their infancy, but a snow rally has been proposed.

Two years ago, when Rally Sweden struggled with a lack of snow and ice, Canada was one of the countries mooted as a possible replacement.

Ironically, news of this bid comes at a time when Sweden is enjoying its strongest winter conditions in years.

Keith Morison, the founding director of Rally Promoter Association of Canada, said: "We started looking at this idea in 2011. Recently things have started coming together and we think this is the right time to put a real effort into making this idea a reality.

"A WRC event needs the support of all levels of government as well as the development of some meaningful corporate partnerships to be viable.

"The next year will be spent meeting with a wide range of officials and potential partners to make sure this foundation exists."

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