KENYA’S Carl “Flash” Tundo imposingly won the 2018 Safari in Naivasha on Sunday after launching a morning two-horse race for the title with compatriot Onkar Rai which ended in a dramatic accident that knocked out Rai and had his seriously injured co-driver Gareth Dawe evacuated to hospital.
The two began the morning contest for the title with Tundo holding a 22 seconds overnight lead. Rai was thrillingly “going-for-broke” in the only 31.69 km Kedong’ stage in a hope to overhaul Tundo’s lead but the flying Soka Fabia R5 flipped and flew in the air before nose- diving to a halt that had Dawe’s back seriously jolted. Safety and medical evacuation swung into a careful rescue and the co-driver was airborne in minutes heading for hospital.
The operation impressed FIA (International Automobile Federation) World Rally Championship (WRC) Promoter Managing Director Oliver Ciesla who said the Kenyan organisation earned good assessment. The Safari is hoping to attract the FIA to return the event to the WRC calendar in 2020. Reliable sources from Onkar Rai’s Kabras Rally team also that after being admitted at Nairobi Hospital, Dawe was found not to be badly injured.
With the knowledge of Rai’s predicament behind him, Tundo simply cantered to a comfortable finish. At the end of Day Two on Saturday, no one threatened the Rift Valley (Nakuru) natives, Tundo/Rai duo. Third placed two-time (2013, 2014) Safari winner, Baldev Chager of Nairobi was a was a hefty 02 minutes, 46.1 secs behind.
After Onkar Rai’s Saturday morning debacle and second place looking “a given” for Chager, he dramatically also suffered a damaged tyre, kept on motoring on torn rubber and then until his left front left rim was gone before having no choice than to change wheel. There was drama when at the close of the rally; the man emerging after Tundo was suddenly Uganda’s former Africa Rally Championship winner, Jas Mangat. Third on the road was Tanzania’s Randeep Singh and it seemed like a dream East African (Kenya-Uganda-Tanzania) podium would emerge. But when results came out, apparently Chager had done enough to safeguard his second place, followed by Mangat and Randeep was fourth.
Hundreds of Ugandans were among the spectators who would pay an entry of Sh1, 000 into the private Kedong’ ranch, scene of the final day’s only stage, and were most vocal in cheering compatriot Mangat. Then more drama unfolded when another of their favourites, Duncan Mubiru/Musa Nsubuga rolled right under their eyes.
Fearing that they would cause the drivers’ penalties for “outside assistance” at first the crowd did not know how to react. But fearing that the drivers were gravely in danger while inside a car at risk of bursting into flames, heaved it back on its wheels. It lost time to finish seventh.
Kenya’s Eric Bengi, the enthusiastic and bubbly young driver from Meru Town, co-driven by girl navigator Tuta Mionki, confirmed arrival on the big stage for clinching their biggest ever rally placing; fifth in the Safari Rally. From Day One on Friday, Bengi progressed steadily from 10th, to 9th, to 6th and finally to the dream “Top Five”; all in a modest “ancient” Subaru Impreza that dared the modern, high tech Mitsubishi Evo 10s and Skoda Fabia R5s.
Earlier in the three-day event, heavy crowds of merry-making followers of the sport were well entertained. Liveliest chat emanated from recounting clips of local television coverage and abuzz was about spectacular Day One action captured by leading Kenyan media house, Nation Media Group and posted on You-tube. It was an amazing capture of action in the 31.69km Kedong’ stage that returned similar results of the days when the Safari was a “giant killing” over 3,000k marathon.
The FIA WRC managing director Oliver Ciesla also said the Safari had attractive rally marketing features that no other of the WRC’s 13 rounds could provide. Organisers were also achieving a world class milestone with the application of sophisticated timing and tracking (viewing) beamed from all sections of the route to the Rally Headquarters at Sopa. It was like watching on “live” television and one of the officials manning the hq, Surinder Singh Bharaj said: “We are at par with the most sophisticated systems used in the world … if not higher.”
The Safari Rally safety officer, Nazir Yakub said: “We have Bulgarian experts providing this system. Linked to control points round the route, it is accurate beyond believe. This takes care of inherent challenges about timing and tracking we had (in the local sport) in the past.”