NAIROBI, October 4 – It is some minutes to high noon on a scorching Tuesday in Nairobi.,
As usual, on every Tuesday preceding a Kenyan National Rally Championship (KNRC) event, the media has been called to a press briefing, this time for the 6th round of the championship, the Nairobi and Olepolos S&L Rally.
As usual, top Kenya Motor Sport Federation (KMSF) and event officials, representatives of sponsors KCB as well as invited drivers and navigators take their seats on the high table to nourish the press on the upcoming event.
As usual, KMSF General Manager, the very knowledgeable Achie Khan begins downloading to the media data relating to competitors…. But wait, something unusual…
Seated at the high table are two drivers set to compete at the S&L Rally. That is not the unusual bit until one notices that between the two speed merchants, lays a very significant generation gap in Kenyan rallying.
Dressed in a white Kanzu (robe) and in a very cheerful mood is Azar Anwar, who as a follower of the Muslim faith is celebrating the end of Ramadhan fasting period.
Next to him, 22 year-old, Quentin Mitchell, dressed in a fade blue jeans and a MacDonald’s branded red shirt keeps throwing glances at the rallying guru next to him in awe.
Anwar, 54, can be considered as an institution in Kenyan rallying who boasts of being the only driver so far to win three national titles among other glittering achievements.
Mitchell on the other hand is competing in his very first season at the national championship and unlike Anwar who is plotting his legacy; the youngster of British extraction is just beginning to live his dream.
“I had always wanted to rally since two when dad was a part of Lancia Martini’s crew,” Mitchell says adding, “Now I am leaving my dream.”
His father, Arnie, was part of the Lancia World Rally Championship team that won two successive Safari Rallies in 1988 and 1989 courtesy of two-time World champion, Massimo ‘Miki’ Biasion.
Born in London, “Only because my parents were on holiday there,” Mitchell, a fifth born in a family of six, attended Peponi Preparatory School and Roslyn Academy for his education, completing in 2005.
After honing his skills and after acquiring a Mitsubishi EVO VII, Quinton was ready to take on KNRC.
At the season opening Simba Savings Rally in Suswa, Mitchell finished just outside the top ten.
He improved to seventh in the Biashara Rally in Embu where over exuberant spectators and busy traffic saw the cancellation of four stages.
“The rally was quite a worrying affair with all those people and the route opener crashing meant that I did not drive to my full potential. It was great to have all those fans out though,” Mitchell recalled.
The third round, KCB Safari Rally, was to prove the biggest test of his career where he finished 13th.
“The stages were so long and things were not made easier when my team mate rolled. The Elementaita loop was pure hell with sharp stones and very rough terrain.”
But he had reason to be happy before the event. “MacDonald’s came on board when they realised that we were the youngest team from East Africa at this year’s Safari Rally,”
He had teamed up with young navigator, Sanjay Wason. “Other than that, I was very honoured to be competing at the Safari, an event I dreamt of racing for so long.”
In the Western Union (Nakuru) and Easy Pay Loan (Nanyuki) rallies, two successive sixth place finishes turned the attention to Mitchell.
The results catapulted him to sixth on the KNRC standings (110 points) ahead of the S&L Rally in Nairobi that is more impressive considering he is among the five drivers in the 38 competitors championship to complete all five rallies this season.
“It’s been a question of driving tactically in order to get more experience and assure of a good position in the KNRC,” he explains.
Behind him in the log ahead of the S&L Rally were seasoned veterans such as Alastair Cavenagh and Sammy Aslam.
“I have had a fantastic time and the consistency we have built is the result of good preparations. We hope to keep it that way.”
He lists open roads and securing sponsors as the major challenges he has faced so far in his career.
“When you know that you can encounter people or civilian cars, there is always the fear. Closed roads give me the thrill to know that I can put to use all my rallying skills,” the youngster says.
“Getting sponsors for next year is also giving me a hard time but with the results we are posting, doors are opening every time I knock them.”
Mitchell plans to enter the Pirelli ‘Star Driver’ challenge next year.
The scheme is a worldwide search for five young rally drivers from the 2008 and 2009 FIA Regional Championships where those successful will then contest a series of six World Championship rallies the following season, driving identical Group N or Super 2000 cars supplied and serviced under an FIA contract.
“The design is ready and it is my wish to compete in the event next year in Kenyan colours. I am urging a local company to come on board,” Mitchell appealed.
“We have got used to sprint rallying and in the Safari and S&L Rallies, experience in endurance races will also be attained.”
This year, South Africa’s Jon Williams beat Kenyan duo of Peter Horsey and Alfir Khan to the Star Driver victory.
“Who knows whether they will extend it in 2010? My chance is next year and I intend to take it,” said Mitchell, displaying the same firmness that has made Azar a household name.
Next to him, the veteran was expressing his desire to compete at next year’s Africa Rally Championship, subject to…availability of sponsors.
As usual, finances are the common denominator in the aspirations of all rallies drivers in Kenya, old or young.
NAME: Quentin Mitchell
D.O.B: June 16, 1986
SCHOOLS: Peponi Preparatory and Roslyn Academy
FAMILY: Fifth born in a family of six