NAIROBI, June 23 (Xinhua) -- Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has flagged off the second edition of the World Rally Championship (WRC) that started in the capital Nairobi on Thursday.
Kenyatta flagged off the first ten rally cars which included Kenyan McRae Kimathi, Maxine Wahome, Jeremy Wahome, Hamza Anwar, and the French megastars Sebastian Ogier and his co-driver Benjamin Veillas who are gracing the iconic Kenyan fixture for the second time.
Kenyatta, who is the patron of the rally, expressed optimism that this year's event will be bigger and attract more spectators across the globe, projecting Kenya as an attractive investment destination choice.
"The historic nature of this rally is undeniable. Last year, a record of 78 million people in 150 countries and regions watched the rally. In addition, the rally was of great benefit to the country, injecting approximately six billion shillings (about 51 million U.S. dollars) into our economy, with every sector sharing in the pie, including players in the hospitality and transport sectors as well as micro, small and medium enterprises in Naivasha and its surrounding towns," he said.
Kenyatta announced that Kenya will continue hosting the WRC for the next five years as per the sealed agreement with the International Automobile Federation (FIA).
Kenyatta said the Safari Rally enjoys a special place in the country's national heritage as it tells the story of its rich cultural tapestry, the warmth of its people, and the diversity of its splendor.
"It is an iconic event tied to the history of our country, to the history of sports in Kenya and East Africa, and to our determination to juxtapose the modern world with our natural beauty," he said.
Kenyatta who noted that Kenya's Safari Rally is one of the toughest in the world, said the motorsport is a perfect fusion of human and machine, adding that it attracts millions of fans and enthusiasts globally.
FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem expressed the need to encourage regional competitions for the sport to thrive.
"For the sport to continue to grow and to be accessible to more people, the success of regional competitions is crucial and we are proud that the African rally championships are growing strong in providing a platform for not just drivers to develop new skills but also engineers, mechanics, logistics people and requisite," Sulayem said. ■