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Arrival of ‘young gun’ Hamza Anwar sparks the Kenya scene

The Subaru Impreza WRC STi 4 of championship first-timer Hamza Anwar, 22, fords the river in Soysambu during the FIA ARC Equator Rally at the weekend on the floor of the Great Rift Valley, Kenya. Pictures/Courtesy MWANGI KIRUBI

The Subaru Impreza WRC STi 4 of championship first-timer Hamza Anwar, 22, fords the river in Soysambu during the FIA ARC Equator Rally at the weekend on the floor of the Great Rift Valley, Kenya. Pictures/Courtesy MWANGI KIRUBI

  • A ‘voiceofsport’ adaptation of  Collaborating Correspondent’s feature on a fresh new face in Kenya rallying …

  • Plus, a pictorial round-up from the exciting ARC Equator Rally in Naivasha, Nakuru County, Kenya on the weekend

By PETER NJENGA

in Naivasha, Nakuru County, Monday

CARL Tundo won the competitive and well organised Africa Rally Championship (ARC) Equator Rally in Naivasha on Sunday emphatically outracing closest rival Tejveer Rai by an unusual 12 minutes.

Tundo called the pace throughout in an event seen as a preview of who the leading Kenyan drivers will be during the eagerly awaited World Rally Championship (WRC) Safari Rally Kenya between June 24-27. Tundo’s flawless drive, and outrageous smiles, laughs and response to interviews during the intermittent stage halts belied his enormous driving skills and utmost focus.

Hamza Anwar, 22 (left) and Riyaz Ismail, 35,  finished the FIA ARC Equator Rally in fifth place. They look forward to a serious got at the WRC Safaru Rally, June 24-27. Pictures/ALVIN KIBET

Compatriots of his ‘caliber’ struggled; many fell. Third place was “stolen” by Uganda’s Jas Mangat; it could well have been by the battling South African, Guy Botterill, who came to the finish holding the position but was retired on service.

After an opening day’s (Saturday) torrid time on incredibly challenging terrain, Onkar Rai could only manage 6th, Kenya champion Baldev Chager 9th and Ian Duncan, with his ancient Nissan 240Rs, 14th. These five men are expected to keep local challenge relevant when an expected approximately 12-15 world’s best driven foreign entries visit Kenya for the Safari.

Hamza Anwar … illustrious uncle Azar Anwar father Asad Anwar

Hamza Anwar … illustrious uncle Azar Anwar and father Asad Anwar. Picture/ALVIN KIBET

Tundo and co. have their work cut out. And more so because the three-car entry each by WRC manufacturers’ teams – Hyundai, Toyota and Ford – are simply unmatchable in power and performance.

At the weekend, Tundo was of a “bring it on” attitude. He said he was going to enjoy giving as good as he will get from the best drivers in the world. Because, he said he knew the severe conditions of the Safari are unmatched by any other in the world and he will not be surprised if the best WRC drivers find it hard to cope.

Jasmeet Chana (left),  fifth in a Mitsubishi Evolution 10, is congratulated by Niku Chana,  Picture/ALVIN KIBET

The Equator Rally was the same field that the Safari will be on. The locals know it so well, yet the extreme rain, rough, rocky, dusty conditions seemingly punished almost everyone into submission, safe Tundo.

But wait a minute. In most competition, there is always a “dark horse” lurking; one that glides “incognito” inside the bunch, for as long as it takes. Seems not to even bother in the sprint to the tape, but, voila! makes the podium or at least an unviable decent placing.

McRae Kimathi, 25, clinched 8th place in a Subaru Impreza

McRae Kimathi, 25, clinched 8th place in a Subaru Impreza. Picture/Courtesy ‘POOL’

Uganda’s Mangat, Giancarlo Davite of Rwanda (4th) did that. But they were not alone. Fifth was Kenya’s Hamza Anwar, the unlikely driver who had placed fourth in Day 1 stages last Saturday.

Immediately,  focus fell on hitherto totally unknown Hamza Anwar. Who is he? What a performance, in the background of a debacle that befell more famous Kenyan drivers.

Onkar Rai … trouble on first day, finished 6th

Onkar Rai … trouble on first day, finished 6th. Picture/ALVIN KIBET

Hamza is a new arrival and local following always has a soft spot for young bloods; after all Duncan, Chager, Tundo and the Rai men were boys when they first took the stage with remarkable skills.

Earlier Monday, Hamza had not returned from Naivasha to his home in Nairobi. A first, only Hamza’s young “buddies” were reached to confirm his age – 22, maybe, said one. Late last year, they said, Hamza, took fourth place in a competition in Tanzania and that he came from the rally cross scene he belonged as a child and teenager.

In Naivasha on the weekend a rally enthusiast who appeared to know some about Hamza was among those of keen eyes impressed by his concentration and lack of fear for the big guns and was heard saying: “Kid is going… Got the brain to drive sensibly on this diabolical track.”

From left: Evans Kavisi with his navigator Absalom Aswani placed 13th. Riyaz Ismail, co-driver of Hamza Anwar. Picture/ALVIN KIBET

Was obvious that this man knew Hamza because he added: “If he keeps his cool, doesn’t drive crazy like his Dad, this is a future …”

“Crazy Dad” is Asad Anwar, in his days [first in serious driving, also aged 22] a lover of fury; won Kenya National Rally Championship (KNRC) and the Safari followers with make-or-bust racing. But a much-liked character for his unique approach to the sport.

Ian Duncan ... at end of Day One, his Nissan 240RS would not start. Ended up 14th. Picture/ALVIN KIBET

Ian Duncan … at end of Day One, his Nissan 240RS would not start. Ended up 14th. Picture/ALVIN KIBET

Complete opposite … surprise, is Azar Anwar, Hamza’s uncle; a cool, calm, careful and restorative mechanical engineer who in his rallying days could nurse any vehicle to completion and a placing defying its potential.

Azar Anwar is a multi-decorated rally man whose first transportation mode was a bicycle to school. When he became a rally driver, his well-known mettle was of a man daily punching way above his weight; and that included being national rally champion in 1998, 2005 and 2006 when he also won the Safari.

Eric Bengi, after problems especially on Day One placed 15th. Picture/ALVIN KIBETEric Bengi, after problems especially on Day One placed 15th. Picture/ALVIN KIBET

Eric Bengi, after problems especially on Day One placed 15th. Picture/ALVIN KIBET

Hamza may have more traits of his uncle Azar than of his father Asad. From rally cross, Hamza’s first rally event was 2018, and, luckily we catch up with him on Monday afternoon:

“It wasn’t much of a rally car but I got a 10th place and a 12th place … then I didn’t do any rallying until recently in Tanzania [a fantastic 4th place]. This (Equator) is actually my first ever serious rally event and in a proper rally.” Where has he been, all those years, all four of them, since teenage?

“At university in England.” Oh, like uncle Azar, mechanical engineering University of Nairobi. Seems Hamza is aiming for a career and then sport on the side.

Many do not the know the face of Drew Sturrock outside a helmet … navigator for Onkar Rai who placed 6th. Picture/ALVIN KIBET

“I will be in rallying since I love it so much. The Equator Rally was tough and the Safari will be brutal. But I will figure out how to survive. Out there with all those bigger name drivers with excellent team and equipment set-up and I giving it the best shot … I liked it.”

But Hamza added that so far, he owes his young rallying career principally to this Dad, Asad Anwar: ” He is my team manager. [At the Equator Rally] all strategies, predictions were from him …”

Hamza’s co-driver, Riyaz Ismail, “is one of the most experienced young navigators in the country. He also navigates in Tanzania and Uganda,” informed leading motorsport radio and television commentator, Sean Cardovillis, master of ceremonies at the Equator Rally.

That is it, the arrival of the next, or better Azar Anwar? Maybe, is this.

  • Additional assistance with telephone interviews and research by Gishinga Njoroge, Project Coordinator  [Planning, Delivery and Editoria] WRC Safari Rally Kenya

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