Meet the new breed of young savvy Kenyans who spend thousands to indulge in Formula One races and are now hopelessly hooked to the sport

Wanjiku Njonjo and Samuel Wahu; Meet the new breed of young savvy Kenyans who spend thousands to indulge in Formula One races and are now hopelessly hooked to the sport.
  • The sport is only starting to take off in Kenya now thanks to a new breed of ‘tech and savvy’ Kenyans.
  • However, as more and more Kenyans begin to understand the sport, ardent fans are beginning to organise trips to watch Formula One races.
  • Kenneth’s love for the racetrack has seen him since 2011, never missed to watch at least one Formula One race live every year.

Formula One is one of the most adrenaline filled sport and Kenyans are starting to pay attention and spending a tidy sum while at it.

The sport is only starting to take off in Kenya now thanks to a new breed of ‘tech and savvy’ Kenyans, while the majority of the population still prefers watching ‘simpler’ sports like football, rugby and athletics.

Being the most technical sport, combining fast and loud cars coupled with highly specialised driver skills and teamwork, Formula One isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

“They get bored watching F1 because they don’t understand the rules of the game. It’s not just cars going around the track,” says Nyawira Gichuki, a fan of the sport.

The love for Formula 1 in the country has developed largely by the young and savvy fans who understand all the technical nitty-gritty of the sport such as “DRS” or “DNF” and as result are going the extra mile to travel and experience the glamorous and high-tech Formula One first-hand.

Formula One cars are deemed by some as 'road-hugging jets' given the level of engineering required to keep them on the ground at very high speeds.

“Downforce” is a common term used, and it is the difference between 'gaining wings' and remaining rooted to the ground.

“We still don't have a lot of places where Kenyans can get to experience the sport both on the ground and on television. Local stations don't focus on F1. To watch it, you have to own a DStv decoder which a lot of people don't have access to,” says Florence Kamaitha, another ardent Formula One fan.

However, as more and more Kenyans begin to understand the sport, ardent fans are beginning to organise trips to watch Formula One races.

“It's one of those things that you need to do in your lifetime,” says Nyawira.

Kenneth Makau, one of the owners of The Paddock Experience, a company which organises such trips says seeing the drivers in action is magical but the experience can be unnerving for the first time.

What you're not prepared for is the really loud racing. I stood up and froze. When an F1 car passes, the ground shakes,” says Kenneth, sentiments which are echoed by Nyawira.

“It's really, really loud, so when you see people behind the racetracks wearing earplugs and you wonder, why are those guys wearing these things? When you get there, you understand, and you promptly buy yours and you put them on.”

For some its a memorable experience money can never buy.

"Its an experience you can't equate any monetary value. it opens your mind and the way you look at things in future. Its an experience i would recommend to all my friends, its a lifetime experience that is associated with world class brand Johnnie Walker" says Patrick Githinji.

Kenneth’s love for the racetrack dates back almost two decades. Since 2011, he has not failed to watch at least one Formula One race live every year. He has been to the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, the Autodromo Internazionale di Monza, Italy and Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia.

“I never get tired of it,” says Kenneth.

The unnerving speed is a spectacle that makes sense for people who get a thrill watching really fast, really loud racing.

This is a sport where the fastest cars with the most elite engineering, the most precise and talented drivers get to compete on who is really the fastest,” says Kamaitha.

Organisers are now working to make the trips even more exciting to draw more fans. F1 fans get an opportunity to not only watch international A-list stars perform at concerts after the races but also an opportunity to shop not to mention a chance to pose with the supercars.

“When you watch F1 live, it's a four-day affair filled with festivals, concerts and interaction with fans from different parts of the world,” says Kamaitha who last year, travelled to Abu Dhabi to watch a Formula One race live at the famed Yas Marina Circuit.

The atmosphere at the grandstands is electric and with just a t-shirt or a cap indicating allegiance to a particular team, fans also gain new friends and the memories of the races remain engraved in one's memory permanently.

“To be told that the brakes glow red hot, and you're there seeing them, there's no feeling like that,” says Kenneth.

“Once you experience it once, it's very addictive. It's like a drug, it sucks you in so be careful, you will get addicted,” he adds.

For newbies planning to go watch a race live it is imperative they make all their booking early. A good Formula One outing is best planned a year in advance.

“the earlier you book, the cheaper it becomes,” says Nyawira.

An all-inclusive package which is flight, transfers, meals, tickets to watch the game and accommodation goes for between Sh250,000 to Sh300,000.

The cost varies depending on the flight tickets to the destination and how early or late one is purchasing them.

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