What you need to know:
- Meanwhile, ladies are gearing up to become more visible next year after the Kenya Motor Sport Federation went an extra mile to ensure women organise slalom races open to drivers of all ages.
- This is an initiative that deserves attention and support as a way of gradually identifying talented girls as young as six through go-kart racing, drifting and finally into rallying.
A new era has dawned in the motorsport world, attracting new sponsors and drivers in an ever-growing calendar which now encompasses rally, raid, autocross, and hill-climbing.
While the World Rally Championship (WRC) Safari Rally was a different ball game, the Equator Rally was particularly outstanding as it was being held for the first time in close to two decades as a stand-alone event after it had been dropped from the continental calendar in 2003 to pave the way for the Safari Rally which became a round of the Africa Rally Championship following FIA’s decision to remove the Safari Rally from the high profile WRC for various reasons in 2002.
Carl Tundo won the Equator Rally to start his quest for the continental title, which he eventually won in Rwanda with one event to go. Tundo and Tim Jessop now have a chance to drive in one of the 13 WRC rounds, thereby getting a feel of top-notch rallying.
The duo will compete in the WRC rally not as rank-outsiders, but on equal peer ground.
Tundo, Onkar Rai, and Karan Patel demonstrated their depth of talent, easily dominating R2 during the WRC Safari Rally contrary to expectations of many Kenyans who believed local drivers do not have what it takes to compete against semi-professional European drivers who compete in the WRC all year round.
Onkar Rai, who has not raced since the Safari Rally was the best-placed privateer in seventh place. He is 19th in the 2021 WRC standings with six points.
Karan is ranked 22nd on four points and Tundo 27th (four points). They became the first Kenyans in 20 years to appear in the world rankings which is headed by Sebastien Ogier (230pts). The Frenchman also clinched his eighth world title this year.
Back home, the Kenya Rally Team hosted a very successful event in Kajiado for 4x4 vehicles last week in a division with an ever-growing number of independent individuals organising such events in Mount Elgon, and soon in Kapsabet.
Kapsabet organised the first motoring event in Nandi County before Covid-19 disrupted the event, which will now be held at a yet-to-be-confirmed date.
The year concludes this weekend with the Guru Nanak Rally. Next year’s calendar revs off on a high with three international events - East African Classic Safari Rally, and the Equator Africa Rally Championship, with the WRC Safari Rally peaking the calendar in June.
The Classic, now owned by Minti Sport, promises to attract a huge international following since organisers announced the presence of American super stuntman Ken Block, renowned for his Gymkhana stunts in World Rally cars.
Block now has an association with Audi HQ Museum in Ingolstadt, Germany, to sample the brand's secret storage facility where they let him drive two of the most iconic rally cars of all time, including Walter Röhrl’s Monte Carlo-winning Group B Sport Quattro S1 E2, and the top-secret Group S prototype car that only five people had ever driven.
The prototype which never competed in the WRC after FIA banned Group B cars from competing in the WRC at the beginning of 1987, was propelled by an engine developing over 1,000 break Horse Power (BHP).
He will certainly give the Classic, which turns 19 next year, a big boost. It was postponed from December due to travel bans between Kenya and other countries occasioned by Covid-19 pandemic restrictions.
However, organisers staged a three-day Mini Classic which still attracted some foreign entries, again confirming the appeal of Kenyan rallying to foreigners.
Meanwhile, ladies are gearing up to become more visible next year after the Kenya Motor Sport Federation went an extra mile to ensure women organise slalom races open to drivers of all ages.
This is an initiative that deserves attention and support as a way of gradually identifying talented girls as young as six through go-kart racing, drifting and finally into rallying.