Rally breathes life into dusty Naivasha as local economy blooms

Equator Rally

Raaji Bharji navigated by Janeil Gathaura cruise in their Ford Escort at the Sleeping Warrior Stage during the Equator Rally on April 2, 2022.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Wanjiru talked of a highly-trained team that is ready for any eventuality.
  • The rally is a multi-supported event and it showed.

Motorsport has put the dusty town of Naivasha on the international map and the ripple effect is showing.

Many locals woke up early morning to get a peek of the throaty, modern rally cars, as they took a turn towards the Nairobi-Nakuru highway, heading towards the start of Saturday’s opening competitive section at the Soysambu Conservancy.

With all the hype prior to the event, the message was home and dry.

It was the Equator Rally, a round of the African Rally Championship, but the pedigree of the participants was magnetic enough to pull numbers, quite close to the blue riband World Rally Championship Safari Rally.

“Motor racing has always been my cup of tea since childhood and had my stint as route martial in my formative years,” said former Nakuru County Chamber of Commerce boss, Njuguna Kamau.   

Equator Rally

Leroy Gomes navigated by Urshlla Gomes racing in a For Fiesta in the Sleeping Warrior Stage during the Equator Rally on April 2, 2022.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

The hoteliers, who have been recovering from the lengthy effect of the Covid-19 pandemic, are the biggest beneficiaries of the both WRC Safari Rally and the ARC Equator Rally, the latter a precursor of the June 23-26 global Safari.

Most of the hotels are fully booked for the two events, happening in a space of two months.

Naivasha’s night life has sprung back to live and revelers are loving every bit of it.

On Friday, the visitors, the majority of whom are drawn from the Equator Rally’s supporting crew, had a memorable night.

“Naivasha has a whole lifestyle that we have never given it credit for,” said Fondo Nzovu, the rally’s Media Centre Manager.

“Entertainment joints like Party Island and Jikoniz are among our favorite chill spots after a race day. Naivasha’s nightlife during rally weekends revolves around happy-go-lucky moments, coupled with a mimic of racing (Subaru cars) on the streets of Naivasha. Why go to sleep?” said Ted Martin, a member of the ARC Equator Rally’s media operations.

Equator Rally

Rio Smith navigated by Riyaz Ismael  racing in a Ford Fiesta cruise through the Soysambu Stage on April 2, 2022.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

According to Hylise Hotel General Manager, Geoffrey Mariga, the industry players are cashing on the event with the economy having taken a tumble and every Kenyan feeling the heat.  

“Our 57 rooms are fully booked during the Equator Rally. We normally charge Sh10,000 a room but we have discounted each room at 15 percent,” he said.

He described the Equator Rally as “God sent” with many traders across the town cashing in on the rare opportunity, happening before the Easter festivities.

“We hope the good tidings will continue as we gear up towards the June WRC event,” added Mariga.

Ian Duncan

Legendary rally driver Ian Dancun navigated by Tej Sehmi racing on a Nissan 240 RS at Soysambu Stage during the Equator Rally on April 2, 2022.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

During the Equator Rally, taxi operators also did brisk business, ferrying rally faithful to different places as the night wore on. They, too, had their money moment.

It was sheer fun for those who made it to the spectator points in Soysambu and Sleeping Warrior where the experienced rally drivers tested their nerves, exhibiting dare devil tactics as dust swiveled behind the speedy motor racing cars.

Equator Rally

Maxine Wahome navigated by Murage Waigwa cruise in their Subaru Impreza at the Sleeping Warrior Stage during the Equator Rally on April 2, 2022.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

At the rally’s Naivasha Service Park, it was a joy to watch the experienced mechanics going through the motion with finesse.

For some, the 18 minutes allocated time was enough to get the “battered” rally car back to shape.

It was a joint effort between the local mechanic and their international counterparts, all working in a synchronised shift. The contentment showing in their faces.

At the periphery, the fire engine team, led by Susan Wanjiru from Kiambu County, was on standby. Motor racing is a risky event and they were not taking chances.

“We are the unsung heroes of motorsport event… safety comes first and we are the cog. We are part and parcel of the popular sporting event, currently, we have five fire engines lined up along the rallying route. When it come to such event, we don’t take chances,” she said.

Leroy Gomes

Leroy Gomes navigated by Urshlla Gomes racing in a For Fiesta cruise through the Soysambu Stage on April 2, 2022.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

Wanjiru talked of a highly-trained team that is ready for any eventuality.

The rally is a multi-supported event and it showed.

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