Ladies and Gentlemen, the much-awaited WRC Safari Rally starts tomorrow (Thursday)!
The global showpiece, which resumes on Kenyan soil after a 19-year hiatus, will start at the Super Special stage in Kasarani before snaking its way to Naivasha for the remainder of the period.
The Kabras Sugar Racing Rai brothers, Onkar and Tejveer and Carl ‘Flash’ Tundo of Minti Motorsports will spearhead Kenya’s attack in the championship.
The trio were selected by FIA to grace the 5.4km shakedown run in Loldia, Naivasha on Wednesday afternoon alongside world champion Sebastien Ogier of Toyota Gazoo Racing and WRC 2019 winner Ott Tanak of Hyundai Motorsport.
The shakedown provided the perfect opportunity for the crew and the drivers to test their competition cars before the main showdown that starts at Kasarani, Nairobi.
“I have promised to give my one hundred per cent in this Safari Rally,” Onkar told The Standard Sports.
“I want to make Kenya proud in my division.”
Tejveer, whose pace notes will be called out by long time partner Gareth Dawe, is looking forward to better his second place finish in the ARC Equator Rally held in Naivasha in April.
He is hopeful that the Safari will provide him best opportunity to widen his Kenya National Rally Championship. (KNRC) lead stands at 49 points currently.
Equator Rally champion Tundo heads to the Safari with great financial muscle having landed Sh3.5 million boost from mobile services providers Safaricom on Monday.
Tundo is one of the few Kenyan drivers who took part in the last WRC Safari Rally in 2002.
Conspicuously missing in the Kenyan squad is the six-time KNRC champion Ian Duncan who won the 1994 Safari Rally.
Also absent is the multiple continental champion Manvir Baryan.
“We are going out to do our best and enjoy the whole experience of competing in a WRC event again,” says Tundo.
Tundo and the Rai siblings will spearhead their attack in a VW Polo R5.
Promising driver Karan Patel aims to be on top of the WRC2 and WRC3 drivers at the end of the Safari.
For him to achieve this feat, Patel will make best use of his local knowledge of the rough Naivasha terrains.
“I have advantage because I know most of the Safari Rally routes and stages like the palm of my hand.
This gives me an upper hand over my international opponents,” says Patel who will be foraging for glory in a Ford Fiesta R5.
KNRC defending champion Baldev Chager is very hopeful that his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X will do him justice in the much-awaited mega event.
Chager who lies second on 42 points in the KNRC series will be out to hit two birds with one stone.
“I’m looking for a respectable finish in the Safari Rally, if not winning.
“I’m also looking forward to maximise on KNRC points for me to regain the top position in the race for the national title,” noted Chager.
To Eric Bengi, finishing the Safari Rally will itself be an amazing achievement.
“This is history in the making, it’s a big thing that Safari Rally has come back to Kenya,” Bengi says.
Hamza Anwar, Jeremy Wahome, both 22 and McRae Kimathi (26) heads to the Safari in brand new Ford Fiesta R3 machines which they hope will turn heads and cause ripples in the competition.
“I want to bring the vehicle home in one piece and to give my fans a memorable showdown,” says Anwar.
Wahome heads to the championship with zero skills in rallying but he is confident to give competitors in the sport a run for their money with his amazing British Formula Three tactics.
Kimathi is aiming to be the top local (indigenous) finisher at the Safari, same way he did for an eighth-place finish at the ARC Equator Rally.
Seasoned driver Hussein Malik can only pray for bad luck to go away following his crash that ruled him out of the Equator Rally.
“I have given my Mitsubishi Evolution 10 a new facelift, I repaired the vehicle from scratch,” the 40-year-old driver said.
Like Wahome, Andrew Wanyoike Muiruri will also be wading through unfamiliar waters.
The Time Trial ace is hoping he will transition comfortably from the tarmac to gravel at the Safari.
“Safari Rally has provided me with an opportunity to try out other sports and feel how they run,” he said.
Young Maxine Wahome is hopeful that she will comfortably fit into the shoes of Orie Rogo Manduli and Lucille Cardwell who are the only two Kenyan women to ever finish the Safari Rally.
Wahome and her navigator, Chantal Young, will launch an all girls attack, first of its kind in the Safari Rally.
“Safari Rally is now part of our heritage. Kenya is among the two countries in the world, including Chile, in the southern hemisphere, entrusted to host the global showpiece. This is a special honour for our country.” Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed.
Safari Rally stages
-Presidential and VIP Speeches at KICC
-Super Special Stage SSS 1 at Kasarani (Section 1)
-SECTIONS 1&2 /2&3 (Chui Lodge 1&2, Kedong 1&2, Oserian 1&2)
-Opening of media centre Service Park Naivasha
-Publication of start list for Section 4
-SECTIONS 4&5 -Service Park Naivasha (Elementaita 1&2, Soysambu 1&2 and Sleeping Warrior 1&2)
-Publication of start list for Section 6
– SECTION 6-Loldia 1 & Hell’s Gate 1
-SECTION 7-Malewa, Loldia 2
-SECTION 8- Hell’s Gate 2 (Wolf Power Stage)
-Finish Podium Ceremony