NAIROBI, Kenya, February 17 – Former Ugandan Rally champion Jas Mangat is the only new entrant for the 2015 KCB Kenya National Rally Championship (KNRC) season opener that revs off this weekend in Kisumu.
Mangat is competing at the KNRC on a Kenyan competition licence.
This year’s edition which returns to Chemelil and Chemase regions for the third time will go down in history as the first event to usher in the high-end R5 technology machines launched in 2012 to replace Group A and N cars.
Rajbir Rai navigated by Timothy Challen and Manvir Baryan co-driven Drew Sturrock will debut the Ford Fiesta monstrosities with top R5 rating.
On Monday, Clerk of Course; Renu Pipi, said the route is in good condition despite heavy rains in Chemase, noting the event is expanding after attracting 37 drivers, seven up from last year.
“We have drivers with new cars and it will be good competition, it’s been raining in Kisumu but all roads are passable.
“It’s going to be challenging since we expect more rains this weekend, little bit muddy will be exciting for the drivers who will get stiff competition from the two foreign drivers,” Pipi said.
Spectators will be treated with the new state of the art machines after Baryan upgraded from Subaru N16 to the Ford.
Nakuru based Kabras Sugar Racing driver Onkar Rai will be the first off the ramp and will be navigated by Zimbabwean Gareth Dawe in a Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X.
Onkar’s teammate and KNRC champion Baldev Singh Chager in a similar car will be next off with Finland and British Rally Champion Tapio Laukkanen in a Subaru GVB13 in third.
Tapio who participated in last year’s Kisumu event is no stranger on Kenyan soil having already trained locals and competed in the 2012 Guru Nanak Rally which he retired while leading.
Ian Duncan in a Nissan Patrol, Carl ‘Flash’ Tundo in a Proton S2000 and Alastair Cavenagh also in a Proton follow in that order.
Two-wheel drive defending champion; Leonardo Varese is raring for a good season after retiring in Safari Rally and Mombasa last year but pointed out veteran Gurmit Thethy, Eric Bengi and Sammy Nyorri as competition to his crown.
“We are hoping for the best in Kisumu, we had done all we can to prepare the car though we began late but we are ready to try and defend the title.
“It will be tough so everyone will have to pull up their socks, Bengi who won two rounds last year is quick and his car is a bit more powerful than mine and he will want to prove the point.
“Nyorri has upgraded from a Toyota Vitz to the sturdier Toyota Run X while Thethy has been there for nine years so they will give me a run for my money. I like driving on mud so the rains won’t give me problems,” Varese added.
Drivers will compete over three stages which will be repeated twice to make up a cumulative competitive mileage of 141.18km and a liaison distance of 228.60km.
The longest stage is the 36km Miwani-Chemase stage while the shortest is a 15km stretch at Simba. The third stage is the Nucleus run totaling 20.8km.