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WRC Safari Rally safety plan to in top gear as organizers look to engage 1900 marshalls

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That safety marshals are critical to the running of a safe World Rally Championship (WRC) event goes without saying. 

Organisers of the WRC Safari Rally based at Kasarani are therefore not taking anything to chance. 

Between now and the event slated for June 24-27, every marshal will undertake about three trainings to ensure that they are well equipped and confident to carry out their roles effectively. 

Chief Safety Officer of Safari Norris Ongalo says the training emphasises on their basic role which is to “Inform, Direct and Control other subjects”.

“The subjects could be spectators, media personnel, other officials etc.

We have started the first round of trainings and the marshals are quite engaged.

They are realising that the task ahead is massively important but achievable.

 These crop of men and women are brilliant,” Ongalo narrates. 

In terms of planning, the Safari Rally safety initiative has numerous things happening behind the scenes. 

“We are preparing the Safety Master Plan for the event. This is a document that gives details of activities to be carried out on the stages. It is as detailing activities at every kilometre. This includes number of marshals and their exact posting, the medical and rescue intervention plan which include both road and air evacuations, the hospitals available and what trauma facilities they have etc.

We are also finalising on the procurement of rescue equipment which is a requirement by FIA. Upon receipt of this equipment, we shall be training our paramedics and the technical intervention teams.’

Ongalo says the essence is to use the forthcoming FIA Africa Rally Championship event (Equator Rally) as the dress rehearsal for the WRC Safari Rally. “Therefore, as we prepare for WRC, we have our eyes on ARC as well,” he quips, adding:

“We shall continue with training programs of marshals, National Youth Service, Medics and Rescue teams until the last week to ARC; and resume the same until the last week to WRC,.”

“We have over 470 civilian marshals recruited from a pool of over 800 applicants. We have marshals coming from as far a field as Malindi, Kisumu, Kirinyaga and Turkana. An interesting facet of this activity is the fact that 35% of the recruited marshals are women. We also will be incorporating over 1,300 marshals from the National Youth Service. In total, we are looking at a workforce of over 1,900.”

Kenya ran a WRC candidate event in 2019 and the difference this year will be the elaborate preparation given the global status of the fabled event.”

“Remember we were ready to run the event in 2020 before Covid happened. However, the team have been working round the clock to ensure every little detail is taken care of. We shall prepare a detailed spectator manual to guide the spectators on where to safely watch the rally.”

-Tremendous Technical Support–

FIA technical support has been tremendous with several training programs. 

Dom Saunders of the Motorsport UK  is currently conducting training for various officials including Radio Marshall, Stage Commanders and many more.

The trainees have also savoured the privilege of learning through virtual presentations by Motorsport UK Director of Learning and Development Sue Sanders.

Motorsport UK has been assigned by the FIA to run an elaborate officials’ training in the run up to the WRC Safari Rally in June.

“We have had FIA and WRC Promoters support our preparation by seconding a team of experts to us. These experts have offered tremendous insights on how to organise a WRC event. Everyday with these guys has been invaluable. Thank you to Iain Campbell, João Passos, Sue Sanders, Dominic Saunders, Rupert Hine, Andrew Kellitt and others. We are definitely better than we were two years ago. Safari Rally Stage Commanders, Deputy Stage Commanders and Stage Safety Officers engaged in a rare hands on exercise of setting up a make shift stage around the Kasarani stadium. The exercise involved being split up into 3 groups.”

“One group dealt with the Start, another with the ‘stage’ and another at the finish of the stage. The predicted outcome of this exercise (of which was achieved) was to engage all SC’s, DSC’s and SSO’s in a robust stage setup whilst considering all where signages and boards are to be placed, managing spectator areas, safety concerns, escape routes and the overall running and setting up of a successful stage.”

-Kenyan Organisers more informed–

On the same note, Motorsport UK instructor Dom Saunders believes Kenyan officials are now more aware of planning and getting a long very well with the nitty gritty of organization. . 

“They are a lot more aware of what is going on and have had better communication and planning. What we need to do is to involve Stage Commanders a lot more in that planning process.. Hopefully, what they have seen and learnt in the training events, they have to be involved in the planning aspect of the sport and they will understand that better.’

Saunders reckons that the magnitude of planning in a WRC is immense and requires early planning.

Dom: ‘The key difference between running a rally and a WRC is that WRC is not a rally. It’s a television product, it is sold. The WRC circus when it arrives in town, it’s a big big animal and has lots of pressure that we have to make sure we involve stakeholders through and through. The key message is that we are going to get on with planning, we are going to build teams, we are going to make sure that there is a smooth running between all teams operating.” 

Multiple Kenya Rally Champion and 2006 Safari Rally winner Azar Anwar who attended the seminar reckons that the the ongoing FIA officials’ training initiative will be  key to an amazing WRC event in June.

The never-say-never veteran won the Safari Rally with George Mwangi (Safari’s current Deputy Clerk of the Course) in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI when the event counted towards the FIA African Rally Championship (ARC). Here’s what Azar had to say about his learning experience: “The seminar was very informative. Even with so many years experience of WRC and Safari Rally, I hadn’t realised how much planning, preparation and training is required. I mean, six official vehicles with specific duties and running ahead of world’s best drivers and rally cars running to detailed time schedules all being remote controlled by Radio links to HQ, sweeper cars, hundreds of safety marshalls, stage commanders, medical crew etc. all required to  operate with machine efficiency. Each of us will need intensive training and be tested to perform like clockwork.”

Meanwhile, spectators of the WRC Safari Rally have a lot in store in as far as action is concerned. 

–WRC cars to recce opening stage–

For the first time in the history of racing in Africa, a WRC car will be used to recce a stage on Safari.

Deputy Clerk of the Course Nazir Yakub took time to expound more on the rare facet that will be another first for the iconic Safari.

“On the continent, I don’t think we have ever done this – reccing in rally cars. So, it’s a wonderful opportunity for everyone to see what a WRC car looks like at slow speed! 

“You actually see them racing by, but now you will see them driven at recce speeds! 

“Drivers will take the notes at the Kasarani super special stage. So those are the notes that they will then use after the start at KICC when they come back to Kasarani to run the stage competitively. 

“But in all other routes, recce will be conducted in normal recce cars, with normal specifications… single 

colours, etc.”

 “After reconnaissance on the morning of June 24, they will transfer down the same route where we will create a cash-wash with which the WRC cars will be cleaned of dust or mud or whatever they may be and then they will proceed to the KICC.”


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