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Safina wraps title in style as season draws to close

Four-time former  Safari Rally  Coupe des Dames navigator champion Safina Khan is at it again, this time clinching the 2018  KCB Kenya National Autocross Championship 2WD Non Turbo Class title.

Safina wrapped up her 2018  championship campaign in second overall position but achieved her fairytale feat after Hamza Anwar failed to meet the 75 percent requirement as stipulated in the national competition rules.

As per the KMSF NCR’s 2018 Clause 10.5, a competitor should have competed in 75 percent of the events prescribed in the national motorsports calendar to be entitled to be recognised as national champion if he/she has the most number of points that would make them the national champion.

If the competitor has not achieved the 75 percent events threshold, then the next driver with the highest number of points but meets this criterion will be declared the national champion.

Following this clause, and the fact that Hamza Anwar only managed 70 percent of the events as of the belated WKMC Round 4, compared to Safina’s 90 percent- she becomes the new champion. Safina takes over the title from another retired KNRC  female navigator Gillian Bailey.

Q: How has your season been in 2018?

It has been a very adrenaline spiked, fun-filled and sensational Autocross Season 2018 for me. I am overly excited to be the new champion in the class despite my underpowered machine. It hasn’t sunk in yet.

Q: How did the idea to  upgrade the Vitz cross your mind?

We started off in the last quarter of the Autocross 2017 Championship in a small, cute, well-prepared  Toyota Vitz which had been previously left to rust in some showroom.

My husband  (Adil Khan) took the Toyota Vitz and decided to upgrade it into an autocross car set to participate in the 2WD Non-Turbo class. This car was actually meant for my firstborn son, who coincidentally was by then, almost sitting for his IGCSE Cambridge Exams.

So the decision to make the car an under-powered 1,500 cc was a deliberate one, to suit my son and get him accustomed to racing in the Autocross.

However, we had not reckoned with the pressures and preparation that a child requires for the IGCSE Exams and so, Project Vitz AutoX was almost put aside. Then, I took the car for a spin one day and was immediately bitten by the rally Bug!

I informed my husband that I would drive it and that we should retain the race car. Adil proceeded to complete my Vitz – wanna-be Yaris WRC left it as a 1500 c.c and did the magnificent job that he always does, when working on rally cars..indeed, that is also his passion.

Kudos to him for a job well done!

Q: What was the feeling like on your initial tests?

I did the last two autocross events for 2017 to get a feel of the car. Although I found it seriously lacking in speed and sprint, with a 1,500 c.c engine and drivetrain, I nevertheless pushed on with it to get some 2WD experience.

I was at this point pitted against much faster and superior machines which were 1,800 cc and even up to 2.6 litres in my class – 2WD Non – turbo challenge.

Q: Did the nature of the car dampen your spirits?

Not really-I kept on driving, despite snide remarks and chuckles from fellow competitors and family about the lack of speed and competition that I was posing for my class.

I learned the 2WD the hard way and at this point, I must thank my husband and family for putting up with me, during the few practice sessions that I made them endure so as to attempt to learn how the Toyota Vitz behaved towards, during and after corners.

Also, it was a real switch for me into the Race Seat, having been an accomplished navigator in my Rallying career. Everyone expected the stars and beyond from me and when I struggled in my underpowered yet marvelously cute Vitz, most people perceived me as a waste of track time and laughed at my slow stealth and efforts.

Q: Did sponsors come through almost immediately?

I managed to get a few sponsors on board when I started completing in the third position quite a few times. At this point, I wish to thank AES (Africa Eco Safaris) for the four events that they backed me up, Motor Atrep Rally Development Team and support, Tile & Carpet Centre, friends and relatives like Wycliffe Mwenesi, Evanson Njoroge (Bandy),Sean Cardovilis, Uncle Arshaad Khan, Farhaaz & Imran Khan, Azar  Anwar, M.J, Terry Stamper, Kalulu and Rajee Chager and above all – my husband Adil Khan and my kids  who grumblingly but lovingly, woke up early on their Sundays to allow me to indulge in my Autocross endeavours and my son, Ahil Khan, who lovingly and loyally made videos for me and gave me precious memories to look back on.

I raced my Toyota Vitz on a very tight budget as I only procured sponsorship  for fuel and partial entry. In fact, I would not have reached this far, without my family’s unstintingly and unfailing support and back up. I also wish to thank my most loyal and hard working mechanic – Abdul (Noah).

And to my fans are awesome! I also wish to thank my relatives and fellow competitors who gave me the spirit of competition and advice namely Rehan Shah, Imran Hakada, Shalien and Sahir  Mughal, Nisha Pandya to mention a few.

I raced my Toyota Vitz being underpowered in conditions of sliding mud, loose gravel, black cotton soil surface against more experienced and faster machines in my class…it has been a steep learning curve but one, thoroughly enjoyed all the way.

Q: What challenges have you encountered on your way up?

I have participated in 90 per cent of the Autocross 2018 events only missing the Mombasa autocross event which I could not afford as my then sponsors, AES, had pulled out and I could not afford the transportation of my Race Car from Nairobi to Mombasa.

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