The good news at the end of the Safari Rally was that the event will be on the calendar of the World Rally Championship for the next five years. 

Rallying is a great opportunity for everyone involved. The drivers get to show their skills on the world stage, companies got publicity, WRC Kenya was successful and the fans got to see some rally action and go outdoors after a dour year. 

That the rally will be back next year and the next four years is a boost for everyone and there will certainly be more interest from companies as well as individuals with a need for speed and who want to get in the rally. 

Every car in the rally is a flying billboard and while the brands have much to gain in the form of advertising, the teams are usually happy to be relieved of the cost of financing themselves, because rallying is an expensive affair. 

Today, Moolah gets behind the scenes to find out how much it costs to put a team in the Safari Rally. 

There are two main cost areas in rallying – the team behind the wheel and the vehicle itself. 

The team behind the wheel consists of the driver and the navigator, and they need special driving gear, which consists of branded overalls, helmets and an intercom for their communication. The full gear costs about KSh400,000, that is KSh200,000 for the branded overalls and KSh200,000 for their helmets and the intercom. 

The team in the car is supported by a service team, which ensures their car is in the best condition to race. It consists mostly of mechanics and engineers, whose accommodation and meals are taken care of and an allowance paid.   

Naturally, the team will need accommodation and meals for the duration of the rally. For the three-day Safari Rally, that comes to:

Accommodation at: KSh115,000 for the entire team

Food and beverages at: KSh85,000

The other main determinant of the cost for a rally team is the car they will be using. 

There are five main categories of rally cars: 

  • Group N
  • Two-wheel drive (2WD)
  • Entry level 4-Wheel Drive 
  • Mid-level 4-Wheel Drive 
  • Rally 5 

The rally cars are segmented into several levels by the FIA, which makes it possible for everyone to compete at a level that suits their budget. The higher up the ladder, the more performance the vehicle will have and the cost will likewise reflect that. 

Naturally, the price of the vehicle depends on its age, mileage and condition, meaning the prices range start from about KSh500,000 for a two-wheel Volkswagen Golf. 

Group N cars are everyday street cars that have been modified with front and rear suspension, exhaust systems, and modified engine management. They are required to maintain the same braking systems, internal engine parts, suspension layout and geometry, gearbox and gear ratios and differentials. Group N rally cars are popular in Kenya as they are affordable to buy and modify. 

A Ford Fiesta 2 performance level car (R4) would cost about 64,990 Euros, the equivalent of KSh8.3 million. A Ford Fiesta 4WD performance level (R4) would go for 99,000 Euros, about KSh12.8 million. 

A used Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X can range anywhere from KSh6 million to KSh8 million while a used Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X R4 can range anywhere from KSh8 million to KSh12 million. 

A Ford Fiesta R5 can cost up to KSh26 million. 

For the rally itself, the entire team has to go through a recce of the route and then the various stages. 

Some rally cars use AVGAS, an aviation fuel used in spark-ignited internal combustion engines.  

For the WRC Safari Rally, only non-priority drivers were allowed to use AVGAS, which would cost them about KSh165,000 for the entire rally, recce, and the other related events in between. 

For the FIA priority drivers, they were required to use the FIA approved racing fuel, which was being supplied by Total for the WRC Safari Rally at a cost of 5.60 Euros, that’s KSh721 plus Value Added Tax per litre. 

At the rally, the M-Sport Ford Fiestas consumed about 200 litres of fuel each, according to one of the crews. 

Tyres are another important component and for the WRC Safari Rally, all WRC cars were allowed a maximum of 24 tyres plus 4 spares and all other cars 22 tyres plus four spares for the duration of the rally. Each set of tyres costs about KSh52,000, with rims at KSh25,000, and this means that for the three days of the rally, each car could use tyres and rims costing up to KSh2.1 million.  

Each car in the rally needs a service car and for the three-day rally, the recce and related events, the cost of hiring, fueling and maintaining the service car comes to a combined cost of about KSh145,000. 

As the cars finish each stage, they are taken in for complete service, and this means that they will need new parts. The prices of these parts are determined by the make of the car, which makes it difficult to establish the exact costs. A rally car’s most important parts are the engine, gearbox, differentials and shock absorbers. With a gruelling rally like the Safari Rally, the shock absorbers have to be replaced at one point. The most ideal shock absorbers for rally cars cost KSh1 million for a set of four. 

For example, running one Mitsubishi Evo X R4 for a full season can cost up to KSh4 million in terms of spare parts. Naturally, it depends on what the team breaks or damages while out in the stages. 

And as they race on the ground, there are eyes in helicopters above, spotting dangers, calling in help, evacuating the injured and taking photos and videos of the action below. Helicopters are expensive to keep in the air, and they need tracking equipment. 

All told, the cost of putting a team in the WRC Safari Rally is, well…mind-boggling. It can be as low as KSh1.5 million for a starter in a modified street car or as high as possible, mainly depending on the machine you intend to use.