NAIROBI, July 3- Kisumu speed merchant, Jaspreet ‘Jassi’ Singh Chatthe has it all to do to hold on to the Kenya National Rally Championship (KNRC) lead as competition enters its second leg starting this weekend in the high altitude terrain of Eldoret.
The pageantry of Saturday’s KCB Eldoret Rally ceremonial start at the sponsor’s West Branch will pave way to intense rallying across six competitive sections between the self-styled distance running capital to Eldama Ravine.
Two stages that were part of the World Rally Championships (WRC) Safari Rally will provide the international flavour with 100 points up for grabs in the remaining four legs of the KNRC series to crown the overall winner.
Chatthe clung onto the lead after winning KCB Voi Rally in Taita Taveta County early last month having led the series since winning his maiden career Safari Rally in Meru over Easter.
The front runner is expected to ease on the pedal to focus on accumulating points rather than seek victory for the remainder of the season having opened a commanding 101.5-point lead at the top.
Leading KNRC Division 1 drivers, Carl ‘Flash’ Tundo, reigning champion Baldev Chager, veteran Ian Duncan, speed demon Alastair Cavenagh and former Uganda licence holder Jas Mangat who is lying fourth, will attack from the onset to eat into Chatthe’s wide lead.
Having endured an underwhelming season by his lofty standards, three-time national champion Tundo has decided to revert to his tested Mitsubishi EVO 9 that last bagged him the crown two seasons ago in the major talking point ahead of Eldoret.
The ‘Flash’ is considering selling his state-of-art Proton S2000 machine that conquered the asphalt terrain of Europe but failed to click in the rough terrain that made Kenya the grand stage of the back-breaking World Toughest Rally until WRC pulled the plug from the Safari in 2003.
Duncan who trails the leader by 27 points acquired the reliable Mitsubishi Evo 10 and his mastery of all local terrain marks him out as a key contender.
After blowing all away last season in another Evo, Chager’s grip on the crown will all but come to a premature end should he fail to produce a resounding rally to claw back the 42-point deficit with the leader in Eldoret.
The outcome of fifth round of the 2015 series will decidedly shape the destination of the honours.
Should Chatthe win and then Chager and Duncan stumble in Eldoret, then the pacesetter who also leads the FIA African Rally Championship (ARC) series after four rounds, will turn the title race into a procession to his ultimate coronation.
Other attractions for the rally enthusiasts who will descend to Eldoret will be the normal-aspirated Skoda Fabia of rising young star, Quentin Mitchell and the similarly modelled Ford Fiesta R5s of Manvir Baryan and Rajbir Rai.
The state-of-art small powerful machines like the Skoda S2000 have glowing reputations in Europe and Americas but are yet to make the desired impact in a land where Japanese makes, particularly the Evos reign supreme.
Although the high altitude will hamper the normally aspirated super cars, the tight and technical nature of the stages should give the nimble Skoda an advantage over its rivals.
During the KCB Voi Rally, Mitchell’s Skoda retired with electrical problems caused by the long grass in the centre of the road that sparked a minor exhaust fire.
His QMR Team have worked tirelessly to ensure that their car, the only one of its kind competing in Africa, is ready to challenge again in Eldoret.
This is a rally that Quentin contested with controversy before but ultimately, it helped direct the sport in a newer, safer direction.
“In 2012 I ran as the first car on the road in Eldoret. Back then the rally ran competitively along busy roads and my co-driver and I decided that the safety of the event and locals had been compromised to a severe level and we took it upon ourselves to halt the stage.
“We received a reprimand for our actions but ultimately the sport sat up and took notice.
“Organisers are now going to great efforts to find us rally roads that are less populated and now our sponsors, Shell V-power, have agreed to finance a helicopter to help raise the safety level even higher,” Mitchell outlined.
Away from the big boys, Tuta Mionki, one of the only five female competitors in the rally this weekend, expressed delight with their KNRC S class progress so far. She is co-driving Waigwa Murage alias “Bobo” who leads the Group S Championship.
“We are happy to still lead the KNRC S Class and have both enjoyed a very good partnership in our cockpit,” Tuta remarked.
Other ladies are Linet Ayuko who will navigate George Njoroge, Sylvia Frigo navigating Piero Cannobio and the “Rally Chicks” Natasha Tundo and Chantal Louis Young in a Subaru N10.
KNRC STANDINGS AFTER VOI RALLY
- Jaspreet Chatthe 101,50
- Ian Duncan 74.50
- Baldev Chager 58.50
- Jas Mangat 42
- Rajbir Rai 39
- Onkar Rai 39
- Tapio Laukkanen 33
- Carl Tundo 27
- Manvir Baryan 23
- Izhar Mirza 22
07:00-Start KCB West Branch
SERVICE A –Kapsaos (20mins)
08:58-CS1-Kapsaos 1-Kimwarer 1 (40.70km)
09:41-CS2 -Flourspar 1-Nyari 1 (27.40km)
10.19-CS3-HZ Camp 1 (3km)
SERVICE B –Kapsaos (20mins)
12:18-CS4-Kapsaos 2-Kimwarer 2 (40.70km)
13:01-CS5-Flourspar 2-Nyari 2 (27.40km)
13.39-CS6-HZ Camp 2 (3km)
SERVICE C –Kapsaos (20mins)
RALLY TOTALS-142.20km (Competitive), 109.40km