By Gishinga Njoroge, for WRC Safari Rally Project
Gilgil, Saturday, March 17, 2018–THE second day of the three-day Safari Rally started at 7am on Saturday from the Sopa Lodge in Naivasha for drivers to tackle another four competitive stages within Soysambu area after the 31.69km SS1 Kedong’ stage on Friday. The 25-kilometre-long Sleeping Warrior stage and the Elementaita section of 28 kilometres will be repeated during the course of the day.
The thrills and unpredictability of the Safari were right on cue even before the cars could leave the Sopa Lodge perc ferme(service park). Osman Abdullahi and Edward Njoroge’s Subaru Impreza N10 could not “fire” into a start and make it to the starting line. The previous day they had finished 21st from the 36 entries and their hopes of continuing on Saturday were almost dashed.
They had only four minutes allowance to make the starting line. But in the true spirit of sportsmanship, about 10 drivers lined up behind Abdullahi offered to “push-start” his car (fellow competitors are the only form of outside assistance allowed by regulations). But after several attempts and a lot of sweat and breathlessness of the “salvation forces” the car’s engine would not cough.
It took competitor Geoff Mayes and the old reliable power of an antique Land Rover (car No. 45, placed 25th at end of Day One) to tow Abdullahi into life– and just in the nick of time; and much to the ululations of all, including hundreds of spectators who were barred by the rules to offer help.
Then soon after, the SS2 Soysambu 1 of 18.75 km was over and Day One leader Carl “Flash” Tundo in a Mitsubishi Evo 10 stretched his 1.9 seconds’ lead to 13 secs, ahead of Onkar Rai (Skoda Fabia R5). Rai had grabbed the second position from previous holder, Manvir Baryan, also Skoda Fabia R5, but who was also on equal 13 secs behind Tundo.
The three Kenyan entries were followed by Uganda’s former Africa champion Jas Mangat, Mitsubishi Evo 10 (38.7secs behind), who had a storming run from sixth place at end of Day One and had overtaken Baldev Chager and Jaspreet Chatthe.
International Automobile Federation (FIA) officials Olivier Ciesla (WRC Promoter Managing Director) and Gilles Simon (Technical) are intensely viewing — driving through and helicopter flying over — the route and organisational capacity of Kenya Government’s sporting authority to see if the Safari meets the standard of a requested return to the WRC calendar.
Pundits think that, at least, Ciesla and Simon are impressed by the unique route, terrain and view of Safari’s competition areas which are unlike in any of the current 13 round of the WRC in every continent except Africa.
Phineas Kimathi, the Kenya Motor Sports Federation (KMSF) President who is chief executive officer of the local WRC Safari Rally Project spearheading the country’s bid is hoping that his personnel running the event and Government systems supporting it would treat any hitches as a learning experience.
He said in Naivasha on Friday evening: “Absolutely delighted at how it is looking and I am hopeful and excited. We have the resolve and everyone, especially at Government, is working on daily improvement.” He said the Government had serious organizational and financial commitment to the annual rally and the entire WRC Safari Rally Project. The Government Project is based at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.
Flagging off some cars at the start of the Safari Rally in Nairobi on Friday morning, Ciesla had a promising note to Kenyans, when he said: “It is our desire to return the Safari Rally back to the World Rally Championship as soon as possible because the event is mutually beneficial to us (Kenya and FIA).”
Top 10 after SS2 Soysambu 1 (18.75 km):
- Car No. 3 – Carl “Flash” Tundo/Tim Jessop (Mitsubishi Evo 10) 11.39.4 secs
- Car No. 6 – Onkar Rai/Gareth Dawe (Skoda Fabia R5) 13.0 secs behind
- Car No. 4 – Manvir Baryan/Drew Sturrock (Skoda Fabia R5) 13.0 secs
- Car No. 200 – Jas Mangat/Joseph Kamya (Mitsubishi Evo 10) 38.7secs
- Car No. 5 – Baldev Chager/Ravi Soin (Mitsubishi Evo 10) 45.3 secs
- Car No. 7 – Jaspreet Chatthe/James Morgan (Mitsubishi Evo 10) 45.3 secs
- Car No. 59 – Izhar Mirza/Kavit Dave (Mitsubishi Evo 10) 1:13.3 secs
- Car No. 204 – Randeep Singh/Gurvinder Singh (Mitsubishi Evo 10) 1:18.5 secs
- Car No. 203 – Duncan Mubiru/Musa Nsubuga (Subaru Impreza) 1:24.3 secs
- Car No. 14 – Eric Bengi/Tuta (Subaru Impreza) 1:24.5 secs