NAIROBI, Kenya, September 10 – Ivorian Gary Chaynes is poised to inch closer to the African Rally Championship (ARC) title after closest challenger; Zambian Mohammed Essa, pulled out of the penultimate round of the competition, the KCB Safari Rally that gets underway this weekend in Nanyuki.
Kenyan Stanley Thuo also dropped out of the competition leaving 63 crew to battle it out for honours in the 62nd edition that is also the sixth round of the Kenya National Rally championship (KNRC).
Confirming the development Wednesday during the scrutineering, organising committee vice chairman, Ashok Bhalla said Essa’s absence will give Chaynes, who is leading the ARC standings on 101 points eight ahead of the Zambian, the chance to open an unassailable lead ahead of the last round in Madagascar in November.
“I don’t know the reason why Essa has backed out because he is second on the ARC table. Thuo is the only local driver who has not picked his documents and that’s rules him out.
“We will know if there are other withdrawals when scrutineering ends tomorrow (Thursday),” Bhalla stated.
With drivers concluding their route recce on Tuesday, the vice chairman said the course is in good condition and they will not make adjustments to Kisima section that was earlier shortened due to heavy down pour witnessed last week.
“I have talked with the clerk of the course in Nanyuki and he has assured me the roads are in good shape because it has not rained for the last four days the route has dried up but unfortunately the section of Kisima that we shortened will remain that way because it’s too late to make changes.”
Ahead of the highly anticipated event that has attracted four foreign drivers, the battle in the 2WD competition will be a mouth watering battle that features current KNRC leader and two-time winner Leonardo Varese, defending champion Dennis Mwenda as well as Volkswagen Golf’s Gurmit Thethy.
Varese who will be making his seventh Safari Rally appearance, is geared up to win his maiden title but acknowledged the race will be tough and that will see the KNRC go down to the wire.
“Everything is okay. We have done testing and so far so good, we are looking forward to day one. Hopefully it doesn’t rain because if it does it will become tricky since anything can happen.
“The competition is stiff because we have Mwenda and Thethy in the race but we just need to finish in the podium and see where it will take us because nobody will give you something for free you have to go there and take it,” Varese who leads the KNRC standings on 51 points told Capital Sport.
However he said it will be a challenge if it rains despite returning to a venue where he won the fifth round, “We have always enjoyed in Nanyuki because sections are not rough and we are running in closed roads considering we want Safari Rally back in WRC it’s a good thing.
His closest rival Mwenda on the other hand was confident he will have a good outing but said the winner of the event will determine if he will retain the title.
“The condition of the car is perfect we have done some work on the car, the pick and speed is good. We had drift shaft issues but we have sorted that out and we are good to go.
“I’m not feeling any pressure because in rally sometimes luck eludes you and by having winning the Perl of Africa in Uganda three weeks ago I’m sure our luck is back and we will be strong contenders.The route is tough we did the recce over the weekend and realised its long so we are going to take it easy and hope to get good results.
“With the rain it will be more interesting because like in Uganda I competed in a muddy course and we managed to go through without being pushed so we have done enough training in the mud and I can confidently say even with the rain we are not worried. Where the 4 wheel drive will go we will also go.”