NAIROBI, April 2- Under the watchful gaze of the founding father of the nation, the late Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, the 62nd Edition of the KCB Safari Rally will be flagged off at KICC by his son and Head of State; Uhuru from 9am local time (+3GMT).
This will kick-start the Easter rumble that will see five counties invaded by monstrous machines and crazed drivers behind the wheel.
Yes, the Safari of old is back to its Easter slot with 60 cars starting the backbreaking 1042.66km total and 364km of competitive action in an event dubbed “Bringing Rally to the People” that in the tradition of the eras gone by when it was known as ‘world’s toughest rally’ only the strongest will survive.
For the first time in decades of rallying, veteran Aslam Khan has been forced out of this year’s Safari due to pneumonia, with the guru lamenting, ”My doctor has advised me to take a rest as I am still on medication to fight the virus. It is sad I will miss the rally for the first time after a long period,” said Khan.
On Thursday, the collection of motoring beasts that will take part in the annual jamboree went through scrutineering at Nairobi’s Galleria Mall where Musa Locho and his team of technical experts sifted through the cars to ensure everything was in order.
– Watch out-
Former British and Finn champion Tapio Lukunnen is certainly one of those to watch having stormed to the lead in the Kenya National Rally Championships (KNRC) on his first foray in the domestic completion but he will not have a clear road to glory.
Safari defending champion Baldev Chager, Ian Duncan, Rajbir Rai and four-time champion Carl Tundo are among those indicating their intentions to conquer an event that has brought back its original allure.
Chager has two Safari titles under his belt, three shy of the legendary ‘Flying Sikh’ Shekhar Mehta whom he has been anointed successor, but clinching the third is not beyond his grasp.
In a bid to quell competition and re-live his epic 1994 triumph aboard the famed ‘Flying Saugage’ Toyota Celica GT4 when the event was part of the World Rally Championships, Duncan has returned armed with a spanking new Mitsubishi Evo X that has proved to be almost untouchable on local roads.
Blood rivalry comes in the shape of the Tundo family, patriarch Frank and children Frank and Tash.
The older Tundo has seen rally technology evolve through different eras but he still has enough in the tank to give the young fillies a run for their money.
Being a bone-breaker, a surprise champion cannot be ruled out after three-days of high octane rallying with protracted battle looming in other categories including 2WD, S Class, SPV, Division 1, 2 and 3.
-Back in time-
This year’s Safari is that it has reverted back to its former identity that elicited immense excitement amongst its followers, on the Easter weekend.
It has made a sharp about-turn as after being identified as sprint event in the recent years, it’s now more of an endurance run-a rally akin to that of the 70’s when drivers tackled lengthy route courses.
This year’s event is not any different from the long distance aspect as crews have the enviable task of covering a mind-boggling mileage in an event that will traverse five counties including Nairobi, Kiambu, Laikipia, Meru and Machakos.
With the impending battle of man and machine, there has been an introduction of several road side services ostensibly because the mileage is bigger.
The rally in which Meru Forest will be in use will have Loldaiga as the longest stage at 54.77Km while Meru ASK showground will be the shortest at 2.7Km.
There will be five spectator stages of which three (Ngare Ndare, Lisa Ranch and Nkunga) will be park and walk alongside Meru ASK Showground and another at Machakos People’s Park which are expected to attract crowds in their hordes.
Ngare Ndare is located after the turn-off of Timau, with Nkunga on Meru-Isiolo Road and Lisa Ranch in Konza, some 9kilometres off Mombasa Road.
They will then head back to the refuel zone at Konza before tackling their first stage of 39.55Km stage at Lisa Ranch.
They will return to Konza refuel stage for the third time after which they will tackle a 5.90km stage at Machakos People’s Park then head to refuel zone before repeating the Lisa Ranch section with a 45minute service and return to Nairobi.
On Saturday, surviving crew will re-start at 5.30 am and head for refuel first at Shell Petrol Station on Thika Road and Shell Petrol Station in Karatina.
The next destination is a road side service just before the Legetia start and they will do five stages including Lengetia, Loldaiga, Ngare Ndare, Nkunga and ASK Meru Spectator Stage, covering the day’s total of 420.92 kilometres of which 125.92 kilometres will be competitive.
The final day is a test of nerves and skills for drivers as they will cover 10 stages.
At ASK showground, they will make two repeats then make a second run of Loldaiga, once each in Kisima and Kibirichia stage make a second run of Nkunga before proceeding to Meru Forest.