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Cars given the ‘shake’ before Saturday morning opening stage at Elmentaita

 

TOP: Eric Bengi over-stretches at the ‘Shake Down’  in his Mitsubishi Evolution 10 on Friday afternoon. Above: The lone Ford Fiesta of Karan Patel gets a tarmac transport section check. Pictures/Courtesy ROBERT WERU MWANGI

By GISHINGA NJOROGE

in Naivasha, Nakuru County, Friday

THEY had free practice from morning to afternoon then waited when the starting order of the FIA (International Automobile Federation) ARC (African Rally Championship) Equator Rally would be announced.

The Equator Rally will,  from at 16.00 hours ceremonial start on on Friday, go through Saturday and Sunday  inside the Great Rift Valley, Nakuru County, where the eagerly awaited World Rally Championship (WRC) Safari Rally will take place between June 24 and 27.

Tejveer Rai ‘nosedives’ his Volkswagen Polo …  gets away with it and, below, he is eaaaasy! Pictures/MOHAMMED AMIN, WRC Safari Rally Media Dept/Courtesy KEVIN GITIMU

or the drivers, rally teams, fans, organisers and entire Kenya, the Equator Rally is all about “rehearsing” for the Safari return to the big world stage.

Therefore, the best Kenyan and African drivers – from Uganda, Rwanda, Zambia and South Africa – have come prepared. Some have already upgraded their cars; from their normal entries in domestic championships, to at least be close to competitive against the best drivers in the world coming for the Safari.

Uganda’s Yassin Nasser in a  Subaru  Impreza (Car No. 204) 

So, for the fans, Naivasha is a great place on Friday, watching, for example, fresh cars of:

  • Carl Tundo (Volkswagen Polo)
  • Onkar Rai (VW Polo)
  • Tejveer Rai (VW Polo)
  • Amaanraj Rai (Ford Fiesta)
  • Aakif Virani (Skoda Fabia)

But current champion, Baldev Chager (Mitsubishi Evolution 10), past multi-time title holder, Ian Duncan (Nissan 240RS Classic) and Eric Bengi (Mitsubishi Evo 10) still add to the attraction and addition to the battle of “attrition” their local followers hope will be launched against foreign “invasion” in the Safari.

Ravi Soni, navigator for Kenya champion Baldev ‘Boldy’ Chager , Car No. 1, a Mitsubishi Evolution 10. Picture/Courtesy KEVIN GITIMU

In this page, mostly photographer Kevin Gitimu captures the early Friday action from the Service Park in Naivasha to the car ‘Shake-down’, a 5.40km picturesque run in Ndulele. After starting order classification, the first car leaves the Service Park on Saturday morning to tackle, starting at 8.29pm, Special Stage 1 (14.64km) Elementaita 1; then take on Soysambu, Sleeping War 1, Elementaita 2, Soysambu 2 and Sleeping Warrior 2.

On Sunday, starting at 8.46 it will be Malewa 1, Loldia 1, Kedong’, Malewa 2 and Loldia 2.

Aakif Virani, Car No. 23, Fabia Skoda on tarmac transport. Picture/Courtesy ROBERT WERU MWANGI

Onkar Rai, Car No. 2, Volkswagen Polo flies to the best time in the  afternoon qualification stage after the morning “Shakedown”. And below Onkar walks a satisfied man. Pictures/MOHAMMED AMIN, WRC Safari Rally Kenya Media

Meanwhile Kenya’s Onkar Rai scored the fastest time in the opening “Shakedown” stage of the Equator Rally in Ndulele, Naivasha. He had the option of starting first in the first Special Stage set for Saturday morning but he chose to start 10th with the benefit of lead cars “sweeping” the route. Karan Patel, the winner recently of the Arusha Rally in Tanzania, was second in a Ford Fiesta.

Five-time Safari Rally winners Carl ‘Flash’ Tundo and Tim Jessop finished third at the wheels of the VW Polo.  It was their first outing in a Polo. Tejveer Rai and Gareth Edwards finished in fifth place after their VW Polo suffered a puncture. The order:

1 Onkar Rai (Volkswagen Polo) 04:15.2

2 Karan Patel (Ford Fiesta) 04:19.6 3

3 Carl Tundo (Volkswagen Polo) 04:24.3

4 Guy Botterill (Toyota Etios) 04:28.2

Baldev Chager, who finished first in the National Class, finds himself as a lonely driver in the Menengai Oil Rally Team as his teammates Onkar, Tejvir and Tundo, have moved on to the more sophisticated rally cars.

The 46-year-old retains his winning Mitsubishi Lancer Evo10 for the Equator Rally while the rest of the team mates have moved to the R5 rally cars (VW Polo), which are supposed to be lot lighter and faster rally cars.

“Yes my friends have moved to the latest models of the FIA Homologated cars while I am left with my loyal Mitsubishi Lancer Evo10,” he tole Kenyan newspaper ‘Daily Nation’.

-Gishinga Njoroge is Project Coordinator for WRC Safari Rally Kenya, and a Deputy Media Officer

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