This follows the inclusion of the Kenya’s Safari Rally in the WRC 2020 calendar. World Rally Championship has announced Japan, Kenya and New Zealand will return to the FIA world rally championship for 2020 in a refreshed calendar displaying a more global profile.
Japan’s inclusion, 10 years after it last featured in the WRC fixture list, marks mainstream Asia’s first appearance in the series since then. Rally New Zealand returns after a seven-year hiatus on 3 - 6 September.
The addition of Kenya’s iconic Safari Rally, one of global motorsport’s legendary contests, means the WRC returns to Africa, the world’s second largest continent by size, for the first time since 2002.
“It’s no secret we wanted to further globalise the series by incorporating more events outside Europe and we’ve achieved that next year with this exciting new-look calendar,” said Oliver Ciesla, managing director of WRC Promoter, which owns the championship’s commercial rights.
All three countries were confirmed on a 14-round schedule approved by the FIA, world motorsport’s governing body. Their promotion follows the introduction of a second South American round in Chile this year.
Ciesla described the calendar as a ‘significant step’ in the WRC’s growth.
“The return of Japan and Kenya provide a presence in the world’s largest two continents by size for the first time in more than two decades. The last time Asia and Africa appeared in the WRC together was 1999.
“The two continents are huge markets for the WRC and I thank everyone involved from both countries and the FIA who have been instrumental in returning the rallies to the calendar for 2020.
“New Zealand requires no introduction. It has a long and successful WRC history and the return of its curving billiard-table smooth special stages near Auckland will be one of the year’s highlights,” he added.
Long time coming for Kenya
In July this year, President Uhuru Kenyatta flagged off the 66th Edition of Kenya’s Safari Rally at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, effectively kicking off Kenya’s campaign to be back at WRC.
“Today, the journey we began in 2013 to return the most iconic of motoring events, the Safari Rally, to the International Automobile Federation-World Rally Championship Series, has scaled to greater heights as we proudly host this World Rally Championship Candidate Event,” President Kenyatta said.
The Safari rally was a dress rehearsal for Kenya’s proposed return of the world rally championship in Africa.
The WRC candidate event, attracted 49 elite drivers from across Africa and covered over 796 kilometres in three days.
In 2003, Kenya Safari Rally was dropped off the world circuit due to concerns over safety, organization and finances.
Here's the full 2020 calendar.