Chager leads 61 crews in arduous eight-day battle on rugged terrain

Spectators get the thrill of the East African Safari Classic Rally

Spectators get the thrill of the East African Safari Classic Rally (EASCR) at the Vipingo Ridge on December 9, 2023 where over 60 cars set off for a nine-day tour of sun, fun and mud across six counties.

Photo credit: Wachira Mwangi | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Defending champion Chager optimistic of retaining title
  • Action proper starts Sunday morning with a 241km competitive day before drivers break at Voi in the evening

Three champions, a celebrity singer, international business magnets, and retired petrolheads embark on a 4,000-kilometre journey from Sunday for the next eight days on rugged roads and weather conditions, which could range from bad to worse from effects of the current heavy rains.

Defending champion Baldev Chager is open-minded, non committal of what lies ahead after the prologue, which determined the starting order for the 61 drivers in competition at Vipingo Ridge.

Action proper starts Sunday morning with a 241km competitive day, halting at Voi in the evening.

“This rally is difficult to judge. One has to be very sensible. It is wet and dry. You have to be sensible,” Chager, who will be navigated by Gareth Dawe in a Porsche 911 SC car, said. He is looking to defend the title in his limited rallying programme since he went into retirement last year.

“It always with a lot of pressure to know that this rally is held on open roads with a lot of motorcycles. One has to be careful. We are here to rally and to have fun,” the former national rally champion and a veteran of the Classic Rally since 2011 said.

“Check the car, check the co-driver and then everything happens,” Charger said on Saturday before the prologue at Vipingo Ridge, that will feature three stages covering 241km.

One of his closest challengers, Kris Rosenberger from Austria, who is the 2019 champion, will drive a Porsche car. Rosenberger hopes lady luck will smile on him again. He first competed here in 1988, driving a VW Golf GTi in the WRC Safari Rally.

“I told my partner that if he wants to have a real experience, he should come to Kenya, and that is how we ended up here. I was lucky to win it in my first attempt, and I am here to do my fourth Safari,” Rosenberger said.

But it is Irish driver John Coyne who commenced his journey on Saturday in the East African Safari Classic Rally with an impressive performance, securing the best time during the prologue at Vipingo Ridge behind the wheel of his Tuthill-prepared Porsche 911 navigated by compatriot Josh McErlean.

Coyne outpaced 2019 champion Kris Rosenberger by eight seconds in the captivating and scenic 15.5km prologue in a Porsche.

Despite facing numerous challenges, Chager drove through the scenic stage, concluding in 30 seconds behind the leader. Chager is determined to replicate the achievement of his compatriot, Rob Collinge, who secured back-to-back wins in 2003 and 2005, in the event this year.

“We had a number of gazelles in our way hoping in and out the side of the roads for a good 500 meters. The animals here have the right of way, so you have to respect that. But it’s okay, and then being first on the road, we were the first ones to find the slippery spots.

“We were lucky to make it up that hill where everyone got stuck,” said Chager.

Coyne, acknowledging the challenges ahead, expressed satisfaction with the promising start, saying: “We have a significant task ahead, especially competing against drivers with local knowledge.”

“Rosenberger, who cautiously navigated the tricky and narrow course, shared his experience.

“It was challenging, with tight spaces, trees on the sides, and potential obstacles. Despite the difficulty, we managed a good time, and securing our position for the next leg makes us happy,” he said.

“We are ready to handle all the stages unless the conditions worsen,” Clerk of Course Renzo Bernardi said.

He added: “We have implemented stringent safety protocols and are working closely with local authorities to ensure a secure environment throughout the rally. Our medical and emergency response teams are well-prepared to handle any unforeseen situations.”

1. Baldev Chager/Gareth Dawe (Porsche 911),

2. Piers Daykin/Tariq Malik (Datsun 280Z),

3. Kris Rosenberger/Nicola Bleicher (Porsche 911)

4. Remon Vos/Stephen Prevot (Porsche 911)

5. Ian Duncan/ Jaspal Matharu (Datsun 280Z)

6.Geoff Bell/Tim Challen (Datsun 240Z)

7. Phillip Kadoorie/Ryan Champion (Porsche 911)

8. Eugenia Amos/Paolo Ceci (Porsche 911)

9. Johnny Gemmell/Carolyn Swan (Datsun 280Z)

10. Journal Serderidis/Grégoire Munster (Porsche 911)

11. Evgeny Kirvee/Gunnar Andersson (Porsche 911)

12. Anthony Nielsen/Ammar Slatch (Ford Escort MK1)

14.Robert Calder/Gavin Laurence (Datsun 280Z)

15. Bonamy Grimes/Martin Rowe (Porsche 911)

16. Richard Acze/Allan Harryman (Porsche 911)

17. Glen Janssens/Conrad Janssens(Porsche 911)

18. Roger Smaulelsson/Julia Swenson (Porsche 911)

19. David Von Schindler/Per Bjokman (Porsche 911)

20. Frederic Rosati/Julie Teste (Porsche 911)

21. Farhaaz Khan/Keith Henrie (Porsche 911)

22. Andrew Siddal/Gary McElhinney (Datsun 240Z)

23. Michael Holmqvist/EmilAxelsson (Porsche 911)

24. Mark Bentley/Ed Bentley (Ford Escort MK1)

25. Pons Jordi Maria/Teresa Vidal Andora (Datsun Violet GT)

26. Tony Wright/Douglas Rundgren (Ford Escort MK2)

27. Shakeel Khan/Assad Mughul (Ford Escort MK1)

28. John Coyne/Josh McErlean (Porsche 911)

29. Glen Edmunds/Lloyd Destro (Skoda 130 LR)

30. Aslam Khan/Arshad Kahn Arshad (Porsche 911)

31. Rommy Bhamrah/Harvey Jutley (Datsun 280Z)

32. Eric Bengi/Mindo Gatimu (Opel Astra)

33. Nish Lakhani/Teeku Patel (Ford Escort MK1)

34. Rajesh Maini/Devan Bhundia (Ford Escort MK1)

35. Emile Breittmayer/Alexis Thomas (Porsche 911)

36. Oliver Breittmayer/Eric Forney (Porsche 911)

37. Olga Lounova/Lilia Khousnoutdinova (Opel Ascona)

38. Malcolm Rich/Adrian Cavenagh (Ford Escort MK2)

39. Philip Kyriazi/ George Kyriazi (Ford Escort MK1)

40. Kyle Lucas/Karan Sehmi (Ford Escort MK2)

41. Geoffery Page-Morris/Dez Page-Morris (Datsun 260)

42. Francis Heyse/Charles Munsnster Porsche 911)

43. Frederic Comtet/LudivineMarquise (Porsche 911)

44. Patrice Perche/Julien Saunier (Porsche 911)

45. Pawel Molgo/Maciej Marton Porshe 911)

46. Phillip Dubaere/Andre Leah (Porsche 911)

47. Iain Dobson/Harry Stubbs (Ford Escort RS1600)

48. Josel Jobst/Luis Lobst (Porsche 911)

49. Joseph Huber/Yves Huber (Porsche 911)

50. Aron Banks/Peter Banks (Ford Escort MK1)

51. Tim Chesser/Jack Chesser (Ford Escort MK1)

52. Gary Bimler/Allen Cullen (Datsun Violet GT)

53. Bart Vanhaverbeke/Steven Vyncke (Mercedes 500SLC)

54. Masaomi Suzuki/Yasuhori Ohtani (Porsche 911)

55. Asad Anwar/Rob Warmisham (Toyota Levine)

56. Michael Kahlfuss/Richard Bauger(Trabant P60)

57. Lola Verlaque/Edward Verlaque (Datsun 260Z)

58. Andrea C. Bonomi/Andrew Doug (Morgan Plus8)

59. Carlo Alessandro/Pierre Arries (Morgan US 8)

60. Jakub Grochola/Michal Jucewicz (Opel Manta 400)

61. Vojtech Stajf/Jan Bejvl (Porsche 911)