NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 1- The ‘Flying Finn’ Tapio Laukanen is hoping to become the first ever foreign driver to win the Kenya National Rally Championship ahead of the penultimate round of the 2016 KNRC season in Kitengela this weekend.
Laukkanen only needs to finish second overall to clinch the season’s accolade and make history, but he will face stiff competition from defending champion Jaspreet ‘Jassi’ Chatthe who still has minute title ambitions.
Tapio has for the last two seasons raced on a Kenyan competition licence and as such, eligible for the coveted title.
The KCB Kitengela Rally has attracted a star- studded entry that includes youngsters Manvir Baryan and Karan Patel who recently participated at the World Rally Championships in Spain.
There are also over 10 entries in group N (for homologated cars) including leader Ian Duncan in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 10, Farhaaz Khan in an Evolution 9 and Karan in an Evolution 10.
Karan is making a return to the KNRC front after tackling five Europe-based rounds of the World Rally Championship.
The former 85cc East African motocross champion scored points towards the Drive D-Mack Fiesta Trophy (DDFT) as well as savoring a taste of asphalt and gravel stages in rallies of Poland, Germany, Catalunya Spain, Finland and Portugal.
“How awesome would it be if Kenya had some tarmac stages incorporated into our national rallying? I’m thinking that it would be ideal for us to have tarmac rally stages on select closed public roads which will call for tarmac specification dampers, springs, brake discs and pads and wheels and tyres,” Karan said.
Karan also added that he is itching to rev his Evolution 10 car (“Phoebe”) this weekend.
“After spinning a Ford in the WRC, I can’t wait to get back into my beautiful beast of a machine (Evo). It was amazing racing in the WRC. We didn’t quite make it to the finish in Spain because I crashed the car in the second last stage of the rally but for the stages we did and completed, we gained invaluable experience.”
“So we didn’t finish on paper but in my mind I have accomplished something great given that I’m new to the car and the rallies and I feel I am walking away knowing that I am a better driver,” Karan who is a the 2014 KNRC Division 3 and Group S Champion said.
In the star-studded list, Duncan is the only driver amongst the top 7 still running a Group N car as most top teams have since upgraded to R4 and R5 machines.
Tapio has indeed swept the ground with all his opponents in his traditional Subaru R4, with youngsters Rajbir Rai and Manvir both gaining considerable pace in their Ford Fiesta R5 super cars.
Kabras Sugar Racing trio of multiple champion Baldev Chager, Onkar Rai and Tejveer Rai will be running their hi-tech R4 Evolution 10s, same as Chatthe.
Although focus will be centered more on the high-flying speed merchants, lower categories of KNRC are sure to also offer spectators some hair-raising thrills on Kajiado’s black cotton soil.
The 2WD category has attracted four entries, including champion Leonardo Varese, rising star Alex Lairang’i, leader Eric Bengi and Sammy Nyorri.
KNRC Division 2 leader Mahesh Halai will be up against Eric Bengi in what has become a two-horse race.
Kisumu’s Chandrakhant “Chandu” Devji Chabhaddia hopes to resume his hunt for the Group ‘S title at the wheel of a Subaru Impreza GC8.
Chandu leads the ‘S’ class which is a preserve of cars with expired homologation.
There’s a fabulous fight in prospect in Division 1 with runaway leader Onkar Rai taking his fight to the likes of Farhaaz Khan and Asad “Kalulu” Khan
The Classic Car Class has Rajvinder Jutley in a Ford Escort MK2 and Ramesh Vishram navigated by Riyaz Ismail in a similar car.
The Rally will be flagged-off at KCB Kitengela Branch on Sunday morning preceded by reconnaissance on Friday and scrutinizing at Sikh Union Club on Saturday.
Three stages running exclusively in Kajiado County will be repeated twice for a competitive mileage of approximately 140km.
The 2016 KNRC has been to Kajiado, Wundanyi, Elementaita, Kisumu, Eldoret, Nanyuki and back in Kajiado.
The eighth and final leg which is the prestigious Guru Nanak Rally is slated for late November in Naivasha.
ENTRY LIST-KCB KITENGELA RALLY 2016
- Carl Tundo/Tim Jessop (Ford Fiesta Proto-MENENGAI OIL)
- Rajbir Rai/Tim Challen (Ford Fiesta R5-RAI RACING)
- Tapio Laukkanen/Pasi Torma (Subaru Impreza R4-MULTIPLE RACING)
- Baldev Chager/Ravi Soni (Mitsubishi Evolution10-KABRAS SUGAR RACING)
- Jasi Chatthe/Gugu Panesar (Mitsubishi Evolution 10-Team KIBOS)
- Ian Duncan/Amaar Slatch (Mitsubishi Evolution 10-LIQUID TELECOM)
- Manvir Baryan/Drew Sturrock (Ford Fiesta R5- MULTIPLE RACING)
- Karan Patel/TBA (Mitsubishi Evolution 10-FILMICO RACING)
- Onkar Rai/Kavit Dave (Mitsubishi Evolution10-KABRAS SUGAR RACING)
- Tejveer Rai/Zahir Shah (Mitsubishi Evolution10-KABRAS SUGAR RACING)