Equator Rally: Sachania spirit drives hope for physically challenged

Nikhil Sachania

Driver Nikhil Sachania works on his specially modified Mitsubishi Evolution 10 rally car at the Equator Rally Service Park in Naivasha on April 2, 2022. Sachania suffered spinal injuries which have for the last 10 years restrained him in a wheelchair following a serious accident in a quad competition.

Photo credit: Peter Njenga | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Sachania’s car had suffered serious problems, breaking many parts, and could not be repaired on time.
  • He shrugged off his shoulders in indignation.

Nikil Sachania is a symbol of hope and human determination.

On Saturday, he watched patiently as his mechanics worked in a race against time to return his car into sound mechanical condition after it suffered a myriad of problems in the demolition theatre of vehicles at Soysambu Conservancy stages of the African Rally Championship.

Sachania’s car had suffered serious problems, breaking many parts, and could not be repaired on time.

He shrugged off his shoulders in indignation.

"Too bad. We have to retire for the day, time-barred," said Sachania.

“Tomorrow, we re-start aiming for a finish and enjoy ourselves,” said Sachania who suffered spinal injuries which have for the last 10 years restrained him on a wheelchair following a serious accident in a quad competition.

Modern rules allow competitors who retire on a particular day to rejoin the competition the following day with a time penalty.

Sachania drives a specially modified Mitsubishi EVO10 in which the gears, brake and accelerator pedals are aligned with the steering wheel.

He represents the true spirit of the strength of human determination, a trait which has been hailed as the true definition of physical inability being an ability to conquer by the International Motorsport Federation (FIA).

“I enjoy racing, and nothing will stop me from having fun and competition,” said Sachania.

“This modification kit was developed in Italy and fixed here in Kenya.”

Sachania would like to venture into racing outside Kenya, possibly doing the continental championship.

“Rallying keeps me going. A finish will do me a lot of good. But doing the Africa championship is achievable if I had money.”

Sachania is one of the 10 drivers who retired yesterday after 134 kilometres of competitive driving in three stages - Soysambu, Elementaita and Sleeping Warrior - repeated twice on a day of attrition where pace notes became useless at least in the morning run at Sleeping Warrior following a heavy overnight downpour during the morning run.

The Service Park at the Naivasha Wildlife Research and Training Centre workshop was like the casualty bay at Kenyatta National Hospital on the pre-Covid days’ merry go around Valentine's Day evening where young people were brought in by their hundreds after imbibing too much and getting into fights.

One after another, cars were either towed in or crawled in a snail's pace suffering from all sorts of mechanical problems prompting mechanics into action to revive the machines.  
Many worked throughout the day after failing to repair their cars within the stipulated 30 minutes’ slot.

The day's biggest casualties were McRae Kimathi and Mwangi Kioni in a Ford Fiesta, with a broken sump guard, the most unlikely part to break easily, in dirty and muddy overalls after several futile roadside repairs.

The damage was chronic, forcing team principal Asad Khan to drive furiously back to Nairobi to fetch a new one and repair engine parts.

“We shall re-start tomorrow aiming to score points for the Africa Junior Championship and keep our hopes of defending this title," said a disappointed Kimathi.

Rio Smith, 19, in a two-wheel-drive Ford Fiesta R3 was another casualty.

His father shook his head after the high speed and traction through a hidden hole literally dismembered the front hub from the drive shaft. “This doesn't happen easily, probably only in Kenya and Portugal. We will fix it to enable Rio to resume racing tomorrow," said his father Don Smith, a previous continental rally champion.

The rally ends today at 1pm today after doing the 19 and 31-kilometre Loldia and Kedong stages.

Loldia, snaking at the bottom at 2,500 feet above sea level reaches the summit, 6,500 feet high, a test Jeremy Wahome described as a “navigator’s nightmare.”

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