NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 22 – Manvir Baryan became the first Kenyan driver to win the Rally of South Africa (dubbed the York Rally) after outpacing his southerners’ adversaries in Mpumalanga contrary to all expectations.
And the reigning African Rally Champion did it in bravado in a Skoda Fabia R5 machine winning 8 out of 15 stages navigated by his British partner Drew Sturrock to become the first ever non South African to win the event formerly known as Sasol Rally.
In winning the South African round of the FIa ARC, Manvir joins the growing list of legendary champions who include Serei Very Der Merwe, Jan Habig, Johnny Gemmel, Enzo Kuun, Mark Cronje, Leroy Poulter and last year’s winners Japie Van Nielerk. The aforementioned drivers have dominated the Rally of of South Africa in its 26 years of existence.
Nevertheless, Manvir, who is also the 2017 Kenyan Motorsport personality of the year broke the duck in an event previously dominated by VW Polos and Golfs, Ford Fiestas and Toyotas.
When the Kenyan made his debut in South Africa on Friday, little did the continental racing fraternity know that he would indeed call the shots in an event which has remained a preserve of the locals down south.
But Manvir flabbergasted all and sundry when he won stages 2, 3, 5, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15 and returned second fastest in stage 8 and third fastest on SS9 and SS11 and SS 7 which was incidentally won by East African Safari Classic Rally clerk of the course Richard Leeke.
Leeke has also been the FIA observer and steward of the ARC Safari for many years.
“This has been the most challenging event of all the ARC rounds we have covered. The roads were so technical, tricky and wet. The points puts us in a great position to think about defending our title. It might be early to say we stand a chance, but we shall see what comes next,” Baryan said.
The York Rally victory puts Baryan level on points with Ivory Coast’s Gary Chaynes and compatriot Carl Tundo on the ARC leaderboard with 25 points.
Manvir was sixth fastest through stage one on Friday, but it was not until the FIA African Rally Championship round of South Africa wore on that the Kenyan youngster proved what was up his sleeves.
Manvir skipped the opening round of the ARC (Rallye Bandama of Ivory Coast) in Ivory Coast and retired in the Kenyan round which is the the prestigious Safari Rally.
From the second stage down south, Manvir savored a big battle with Theuns Joubert of South Africa prior to the latter’s exit on stage 13.
Manvir’s navigator (Sturrock) was all smiles and this is what he had to say after the memorable win.
“Im delighted to have won the York Rally 2018 in South Africa. It’s been a long time since I won a rally in SA and have missed the people, the country and the competition so much.”
“It has been such a wonderful weekend and I hope we return to defend the title next year. Well done to the organisers and teams for putting on such a great event. Manvir drove like a champ again. Back out in a few weeks in Kenya, thank you all for your support and well wishes!”
South Africa’s Guy Botterril took cashed in on his fellow countryman Theuns Joubert’s misfortunes to move up to second position overall.
Despite keeping the competition tight for the top position, South Africa’s Theuns Joubert saw his contention stymied in stage 13 with mechanical problems to his Toyota Auris.
Only 17 of the 26 crews survived the demanding York Rally event which featured a night stage at Sabie and went through Nelspruit and white river.
In fact, there was a big debate on social media when Manvir led the proceedings after day one.
Victor Chelabesa a Zambian motor fan was among the doubting Thomases but not until the rally wore on and he had this to say:
“Tomorrow (Saturday) is another day, I am actually impressed with Manvir’s driving. He was first one on the road, it’s not easy in south Africa, being a foreign driver and first one on the road. Give the guy some credit. The guy can drive and I am sure when he comes here, he will whip our boys here.”
Former two times Kenya champion Lee Rose (now a macadamia farmer in Nelspruit) won the classic class in a Ford Escort RS while his farther (a renowned wheat farmer in the Great Rift Valley) and Safari Rally John Rose came in third in the classic class in a Datsun 240Z. Leek won the short tarmac stage in Sabie town where he beat Manvir by 4seconds.
Joubert won the first stage before Manvir stamped his authority on the event.
Joubert won stage 4 after Manvir returned 8th fastest on Friday but Manvir clung to the lead from the fifth to to the fifteenth stage.