NAIROBI, Kenya 15 – Local rallying celebrity Patrick Njiru who is making a comeback into competitive rallying is excited about the prospects of reliving his hey days when the fifth edition of the Kenya Airways East Africa Safari Rally gets underway on Friday.
Njiru, who spoke to Capital FM Sport, is testing his Porsche 911 in Kilifi ahead of the nine day marathon rally that will see over 50 drivers and crew traverse more than 4000km of rough terrain in Kenya and Tanzania.
“Everything is going on very well. The car is so good and we are feeling so happy. The car is behaving well and we should be counting the hours and not days to start of this event,” he asserted.
For the last four days, the once revered speed merchant has been in Bampa, 85km north of the coastal town from Kilifi town testing his Porsche 911 with his crew.
Njiru who retired more than 10 years ago is part of the charity rally team Race4Change made up of former world and Safari Rally champion Bjorn Waldegaard of Sweden and American racing driver Travis Pastrana.
“I have missed it and here I’m back again, the feeling is great. The team has done so well and they gave me almost 1,000km of having the feel of racing again from braking to understanding the system, you know they are all professional bunch of people. I mean, that feeling of coming back here is amazing.”
Back in his hey day’s Njiru and retired navigator Abdul Sidi formed a formidable partnership at the height of their rallying career, driving under several of the world’s best known teams and brands such as Noriyuki Koseki, 555, Marlboro and BAT.
To date, winning the Group “N” crown with a fourth-place finish in the 1994 Safari Rally still is their biggest high as one of the best ever result by an indigenous African driver in the event when it consistently featured in the World Rally Championship (WRC).
Njiru had cemented his name as a local rally great by becoming the first ever indigenous driver to win the Kenya National Rally Championship after returning back his Subaru Leone on to the finish ramp in Mombasa Rally co-driven by Sidi.
Race4Change is promoting the economic empowerment of women in Africa and is spearheaded by Canadian philanthropist Dr Steven Funk who will be taking part in the event too.
Funk’s aim is to use this epic event to reach the widest possible audience and he does not rule out the possibility of a Race4Change Porsche prepared and run by Tuthills coming through this gruelling event to win.
With the sponsorship from Funk and his team under the Race 4 Change, Njiru is highly cognizant of the mood in the team as they prepare.
“We are getting on very well with the team principal all the mechanics, works drivers. As you know the Race 4 Change is not just about racing. It’s about trying to raise funds for women in Kenya and empower them in connection with our vision for 2030.
The Classic rally is a 10-day event which starts and finishes in Mombasa after a journey through major parts of Kenya and Tanzania.