Lynette Matheka @Peoplesports11
Former Safari Rally defending champion and 2015 Africa Rally Championship (ARC) winner Jaspreet Chatthe will be first off the ramp as the 66th edition of Safari Rally revs off today at 11am through to Sunday.
Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa will flag off the more than 30 drivers from Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) as they set to do battle in the three-day event in search of Kenya National Rally Championship (KNRC) as well as ARC points in the rally that serves as the second edition of the two competitions.
In the absence of defending champion Tapio ‘Flying Fin’ Laukkanen and second place finisher Ian Duncan who have opted out of this year’s Safari, Chatthe who finished fifth in the last Safari is hoping to clinch the bragging rights.
Navigated by James Morgan in a Mitsubishi Evolution 10 RC2-R4 Chatthe will hope to win the Safari and go in the books of the ARC Safari Rally winners as his last two wins were while the event was a KNRC event.
Series leader Onkar Rai, seeded second, will for the first time in his racing career go into the iconic Safari as the series leader after winning the season opening home event in Nakuru.
The former KNRC Division Two champion says they will approach the Safari with focus. “Safari has never been an easy rally. All drivers are worthy. We do not underestimate anyone because of our recent performance since in three days of racing anyone can go top. But that will not stop our plans,” he said.
The two will face stiff competition from Carl Tundo who won the ARC category in 2017 after placing third behind Laukannen and Duncan who were not part of the ARC category. Tundo is seeded fifth.
Another title contender is ARC titleholder Manvir Baryan navigated by Drew Sturrock. In the last edition, the Motorsports Personality of the year finished ninth overall and third in the ARC category behind Tundo and Chatthe. Baldev Charger, second on the KNRC standings, Karan Patel ninth, Farhaaz Khan, Jasmeet Chana and Eric Bengi complete the top-10 seeds that has Uganda’s Jas Mangat, seeded seventh.
The route for this year’s rally has been tailored to suit the World Rally Championship (WRC) specifications as the event seeks to make a return to the WRC by 2020 with Kenya Motorsport Federation (KMSF) aiming to host a candidature event in 2019.
The heavy downpour in areas around Naivasha have however caused the cancellation of Aberdare hills stage, which was to be covered twice. The 31.69km Kedong stage will now replace the cancelled stage.
Gilles Simon, the FIA head of technical matters and Olivier Ciesla the WRC promoter managing director are in Kenya and will observe the event as it seeks to return to its lost glory.