NAIROBI, Kenya, July 4 – With many legendary competitors in quick Porshe 911s, Datsuns and Fords aiming for podium finishes, 2017 could prove to be the closest Kenya Airways East African Safari Classic.
Entries for the prestigious event continue to trickle in at the event secretariat in Nairobi with two former multiple Kenya champions Baldev Chager and Ian Duncan already enlisted for the nine day grueling rally slated for Kenya and Tanzania from November 23 to December 1.
Chager has won the Kenya National Rally Championship thrice in 2008, 2013 and 2014 while Duncan, on the other hand, is a six times Kenyan champion in 1987 in a Toyota Celica TCT, 1988 in a Toyota Celica GT4, 1989 in an Opel Manta 400, 1991 in a Subaru Legacy Turbo, 2000 in a Toyota Land Cruiser and 2011.
East African Safari Rally General Manager Pipi Renu hinted that other high-profiled local drivers could follow suit in due course.
“Entries for the event continue to pour in. We have many drivers who have expressed interest and I can assure rally lovers of some big names from Kenya and overseas that will be joining the list, probably some of the most famous locals. The last to sign up for the event was Kabras Sugar Racing which announced a three car Porscvhe 911 outfit so we expected more in due course,” said Pipi.
Also listed is Stig Blomqvist who incidentally is the event’s defending champion.
Blomqvist (born 29 July 1946) won the WRC drivers’ title in 1984 and finished runner-up in 1985.
Another car to watch is the Datsun 260Z of South Africa’s Geoff Bell and the highly competitive Group B Mazda RX-7 of French historic veteran, Philippe Gache.
Legendary driver and Arusha industrialist Jayant Shah will be returning to the biennial extravaganza in his 70s behind the wheel of a Porsche 911. Shah will be navigated by Ravi Chana from Kenya.
Though the Shah/Chana partnership started in 2010 in Tanzania, but it was not until 2015 that an opportunity on Safari Classic opened up next to Shah. Chana has since 2015 been called upon to fill the void left behind by the legendary Lofty Drews who has called “tulip notes” for Shah on previous occasions.
Scott Amstrong, who was born and raised in Kenya, will be making his debut in a Datsun 160J navigated by Harpal Sudle, formally from Eldoret. Both Amstrong and Sudle have relocated to the United Kingdom although the latter’s father (Sinder Sudle) is synonymous with Eldoret Rally organization from the 1970s to date.
The all Italian crew of Gilbertto Sandretto and Fabrizia Pons have also sign up and will steer a Porsche 911 prepared for them by English specialists Tuthill Porsche. Pons is no stranger to Safari Classic adventure and is best known for her partnership with Patrick Njiru and Travis Pastrana.
Pons guided Michèle Mouton to a number of good results and is one of few people to have achieved world championship points as a driver and co-driver, having finished ninth overall in the 1978 Sanremo Rally before switching to co-driving.