NAIROBI, Kenya, January 15 – The 2014 Kenya National Rally Championship (KNRC) starts on a sad gear following the demise of one of the true indigenous rally heroes, Ben Muchemi, better known as ‘Baba Shiro.’
It also comes after the year that saw the exit of another great, three -time Safari Rally winner, Joginder Singh, who passed away in October aged 81.
Singh also known as ‘Flying Sikh’ was Kenya’s most successful rally driver, winning the African marathon twice when it was a round of the World Rally Championship.
He started 22 Safaris, finished 19 and won three.
As for ‘Baba Shiro’ much as he did not scale the heights of victory or clock fastest times in his rallying career, he managed to arouse excitement to his legions of fans and fellow drivers.
He brought a fresh twist to the sport, if it was not taking part in a rally; he would be sponsoring someone to compete instead.
If he was not chairing a committee, he was lending out one of many rally cars to someone and it is this kindred spirit that will be solely missed in 2014.
The 2009 Kenya Motor Sports Personality of the Year owned 28 rally cars and allowed less privileged drivers use them free of charge besides playing a leading role in organising events among them, last year’s Safari.
Celebrating the rich lives of Muchemi and Singh will form a large part of the itinerary of events this year.
The KNRC title holder is Baldev Singh Chager, who had sealed the 2013 KNRC crown in the penultimate Guru Nanak Rally in October scooping his second career Kenya National Rally Championship series title. It was also an emphatic season for Charger as he aso won the coveted KCB Safari Rally in July giving him more to fight for this season.
The calendar will begin at the annual KMSF Motor Sports Awards later this month to award those who excelled in 2013 where moving tributes to the departed greats will form a large part of the proceedings.
Last year, Shivam ‘Ole’ Vinayak picked up the Personality of the Year award as Chantal Young was elated at her Ladies Rose Bowl trophy and classic car cup navigators’ titles.
Already, KMSF have altered the KNRC calendar with the start of the eight-round KCB sponsored competition being switched to the coastal town of Malindi on the weekend of February 1 and 2 as opposed to the customary Kajiado/Nairobi region openers.
Kenya Motor Sports Club will organize the next rally after Malindi in early March.