Kenyans looking forward to cheering on their own at Safari
What you need to know:
- The Kenya government through the Sports Ministry remains the biggest sponsor of the Safari which this year has been identified as a vehicle to promote the Bottoms Better Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA) to lift the status of the most venerable Kenyans who stand to gain the ripple effects of the economic spillovers of the Safari.
Wouldn’t it be exciting to see just how Carl Tundo, or former national champion Baldev Chager, would fare against world champions Kalle Rovanpera, Ott Tanak and Sebatien Ogier in a Rally 1 car serviced by the same outfit from the factory teams in the Safari?
Greece is already enjoying this through Jordan Serdiridis who is part of the M-Sport Ford Team in the Safari as a fully-supported privateer.
This will bring excitement across the board, reminiscent of the days when locals like Shekhar Mehta, Joginder Singh, Ian Duncan, Vic Preston Junior, Mike Kirkland and Patrick Njiru could match or beat the top professionals through factory support. Mehta, Joginder and Duncan actually won the Safari.
Those were the days of the great “Safo.” They can be re-created. Despite a low entry of Kenyan drivers in the World Rally Championship (WRC) class of the Safari Rally due to ineligible cars, fans will still be able to have something to cheer for, especially in the second and third tier categories which are teeming with local talent and intent.
The International Automobile Federation (FIA) closed entries of the WRC category on Monday but locals are still eligible to enter in the Safari but will score points only in the Kenya National Rally Championship (KNRC).
The last minute entry of five-time Safari champion Carl Tundo was received with anticipation although he is yet to announce the car he will be driving, navigated by Tim Jessop.
Despite being inactive since the 2021 season, Tundo is rated highly against top professionals in the Rally 2 category given a machine commensurate to his vast driving skills and deep talent. He finished ninth in 2021, was mired with penalties last year, and was unlucky in the East African Safari Rally Mini Classic.
As his car model confirmation is awaited, Kenya will be ably represented by five R2 cars of national champion Karan Patel (Ford Fiesta), Aakif Virani (Ford Fiesta), Piero Cannobio (Hyundai i20) and Ugandan Yasin Nasser (Ford Fiesta MKII).
Patel has no excuse of taking on the best from Europe after bagging a substantial sponsorship from the KCB Bank which will also support Nikil Sachania and Evans Kavisi who will be driving Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10 models.
The bank announced a Sh17.4 million sponsorship for the three drivers, addressing a drought of support which has dried up in motorsport in recent years.
The bank also announced a Sh100 million partnership with the Safari and joins Kenya Airways and Toyota Kenya as other top brands to join hands with the Safari.
The Kenya government through the Sports Ministry remains the biggest sponsor of the Safari which this year has been identified as a vehicle to promote the Bottoms Better Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA) to lift the status of the most venerable Kenyans who stand to gain the ripple effects of the economic spillovers of the Safari.