FIA President Jean Todt has stated that there will likely be no F1 return to Africa for at least the next 'three-to-five years', countering Bernie Ecclestone's recent claim to the contrary – but the Frenchman conceded that the World Rally Championship (WRC) could be a different matter.
The last time the continent hosted a grand prix was back in 1993 at Kyalami in South Africa – though the roar of grand prix engines was heard again when both Williams and BAR tested there in early 1999 – whilst the gruelling Rally Safari on the annual WRC calendar was dropped after the 2002 edition due to safety issues.
Speaking on a trip to the event's home of Kenya after being invited there by the Kenya Motor Sports Federation – who are pushing for a world championship return – Todt acknowledged that things are moving forward in one sphere, if not necessarily in the other just yet.
“At the moment it's only some rumours about some interest for some countries in Africa to organise an F1 event, but I don't see any opportunity in the next three-to-five years,” the former Ferrari team principal is quoted as having said by The Associated Press
, pouring cold water on Ecclestone's assertion back in the summer that a revived South African Grand Prix could be on the cards for Cape Town in the near future [see separate story – click here
], following the revelation that a consortium had requested the support of president Jacob Zuma for just such a project.
“Africa is a fantastic field to organise road racing, though. It could be WRC, or even cross-country. We are talking with promoters about the possibility to have long-stage rallies incorporated, and we are looking at different opportunities to get the best solution for Africa, Europe, Asia and all over the world.”
South Africa successfully played host to the Football Word Cup this year, but Todt has insisted that a pre-requisite for the return of international world-class motorsport to Kenya is the reduction of road fatality figures in the country, currently amongst the highest in the world.