The return of the iconic Safari Rally to the World Rally Championship has taken another step closer, with a 2020 calendar slot the target.
FIA president and former WRC co-driver Jean Todt has long pushed for the Kenyan event to return to the schedule for the first time since 2002.
On Thursday WRC Promoter managing director Oliver Ciesla, Kirimi Peter Kaberia, the principal secretary of Kenya’s Ministry of Sports and Heritage, and Phineas Kimathi, chief executive of the project to revive the Safari signed a landmark agreement at the FIA Paris headquarters in Todt's presence.
The 2019 edition of the Safari, currently an African Championship round, will run as an official WRC 'candidate event' and be observed with a view to it joining the WRC calendar the following year.
While the original Safari Rally was notorious for its ultra-long route and stages, the organisers of the new version have adapted it for a modern WRC format.
“This is a modern-era Safari," said Ciesla.
"Traditional open-road competitive sections have been replaced by smoother special stages in private estates and conservancies and a comprehensive safety plan is in place to support a rally organised to the current WRC format.
"That doesn’t mean the challenge is diminished. The gravel roads are demanding and we can also look forward to striking images of African wildlife and stunning landscapes."