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The Safari Rally is a rally race held in Kenya. It was first held from 27 May to 1 June 1953 as the East African Coronation Safari in Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika,[1] as a celebration of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. In 1960 it was renamed the East African Safari Rally and kept that name until 1974, when it became the Safari Rally. Widely regarded as one of the most popular African rallies, it was set to make a return to the World Rally Championship (WRC) in 2020 after an 18-year hiatus, but was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will instead return in the 2021 World Rally Championship.

The older version of the Safari Rally was notorious for being by far the most difficult rally in the WRC championship to win: some[who?] had said that winning this particular rally was the equivalent of winning three other rallies. The arduous conditions, such as the constantly changing weather and the very rough roads often rife with sharp rocks, made life very difficult for team personnel. Repairs were constantly having to be made to the cars, which added to the elapsed time of the competitors. Frequently, all this work had to be done in intense heat and humidity.

The event adopted the special stage format in 1996. From that edition until 2002, it featured over 1000 km of timed stages, with stages well over 60 kilometres (37 mi) long, unlike most rallies which had under 500 kilometres (310 mi) of total timed distance. This meant that the winner's total time was above 12 hours in 1996 and decreased to two seconds shy of 8 hours in 2002.

The event was excluded from the WRC calendar due to a lack of finance and organisation in 2003. Since 2003 the event has been part of the African Rally Championship, organised by the FIA.

On the 27 September 2019, The Safari Rally was readmitted into the WRC championship calendar starting with the 2020 rally between 16 and 19 July, but was later cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, instead making its return in 2021.

Local driver Shekhar Mehta is the most successful in the event with five outright victories, in 1973, and 1979 to 1982.

Jean-Pierre Nicolas and Jean-Claude Lefèbvre won the 26th Safari Rally driving a Peugeot 504 V6 Coupé

See also