MOTORSPORT NEWS Rally

Record 23 enter Africa series

A record number of drivers contending for African Rally Championship points have entered this weekend’s Kenya round of the continental series – the Safari Rally.They include top Kenyan woman driver Natasha Tundo who will be navigated by Shantal Young, the only women’s crew in this year’s Safari.

Jasmeet Chatthe

Muna Singh of Zambia, who is a member of the International Automobile Federation’s Rallies Commission, said the entry list is a record in Africa with 23 of the 29 registered drivers in the African Rally Championship preparing to tackle the Kenya event.

“This is a great achievement and praise goes out to all the countries that have worked very hard in making all this possible as well as the FIA for  allowing the registration to be free. I pray that most of them will continue participating in the remaining rounds of the ARC,” said Singh.

The race, making its return to the African Rally Championship series after a two years hiatus, will start tomorrow at 8am from the Kenyatta International Convention Centre.

According to the local organisers, a lot of work has been put in over the last few weeks making sure all the requirements were met under the world motor sports governing body rules.

Kenya is set to run a candidate World Rally Championship event in 2019.

Kenya’s Surinder Thatthi, who is the current Africa FIA Vice President, said he was pleased with the preparations for this year’s event.

“Kenya has a good chance as the WRC promoter is keen to get the Safari back in the WRC. KMSF needs to reunite and work as a team to make this happen. It will be great for Africa. It has brought a great entry for the Safari from the rest of Africa,” said Thatthi.

When asked why Safari Rally duration has been reduced to a mere two days, his said: “Times change and the old five-day Safari system would be very expensive in this day and age. However, the contest will still be tough.”

“The route was fine though part of the Suswa area was flooded with water. It now all depends on the weather because if it rains then it is going to be a tough one,’’ said driver Ketan Halai, seeded number 20 in a Subaru Impreza.

Former African champion Jassi Chatthe of Kenya will head the list of 49 crews made up of international drivers from as far as Finland, Zambia, Burundi, Uganda and Tanzania in addition to the local drivers.

Kenya has won the ARC title twice in the last two years with Jassi Chatthe/Gugu Panesar in 2015 while Don Smith/Bob Kaugi accomplished their dreams by winning 2016 championship.

Zambian drivers hold the record for winning the ARC title on 12 different occasions. Satwant Singh won it eight times, Muna Singh (2), Mohamed Essa and Jassi Muna Singh once respectively.