NAIROBI, Kenya, June 8 – With the clock ticking and the WRC Safari Rally fast approaching, rally drivers and teams have been trying to make some last-minute changes to their vehicles, testing them at any opportunity they can get.
Kenya’s rally driver icon Patrick Njiru too has come been busy. He has come out of retirement to help nurture and grow the skills and talents of two drivers who are making their transition from other avenues of Motor Sports and into Main Stream Rallying.
Maxine Wahome and Andrew Wanyoike are the two drivers that Njiru has taken under his wings and happen to both be part of #Teambetika. The two were part of the four drivers who received the Kshs 80 million sponsorship.
Speaking to Capital Sports on Kenya’s premier sports show Saturday Music and Sports, Njiru said that he has known Wahome since she was a baby and he has been by Wanyoike side as he did a few Time Trials races.
He has since taken a bigger role as they try to transition from the tarmac racing to Rallying. “Rallying is a science and that is the science I’d like to instill in Andrew (Wanyoike),” Njiru told Capital Sport.
Njiru, who was the first Kenyan driver to join the Subaru World Rally Team between 1983 and 2002, is also the first Kenyan to compete and finish the Safari Rally in a Group N vehicle.
Njiru had a lot of wise words for the Betika Duo. Unlike Autocross and Motocross where Maxine thrived, Njiru said that rallying was a different Ball game.
“I keep telling them that rallying is more of a mental race. Apart from having a good car and team, one must focus more to preserve the car and finish and not break the car on the first day.”
Andrew wanted to skip the first day shake down, but Njiru insisted that he does it. He said “Why would you skip it; you have to do it as this is the first time you will drive the rally car in a Live section and you will need that experience as it prepares you mentally for the task ahead.”
Njiru has taken time out to spend with both Maxine and Wanyoike as each one of them trains individually with their teams.
He finished off by telling the team that The Safari Rally is not a marathon and while speed is needed for decent times; bringing that car back to service is more important as “The Safari Rally is a Marathon: not a sprint.”
When asked if we will ever see ‘Patrick Njiru” back in the Rally car he said, “I think you never say no when it comes to rallying. A few years ago, I found myself in a rally car during the classic Rally. I drove a Porsche with an American; Dr. Steven Frank and he came and said; here is a Porsche. It was the first time I drove a rear-wheel-drive car. Coming back to our event, the last time I drove was 19 years ago. Bjorn Waldegard drove to his last day when he was 74.”
As a fresh flower will attract bees, Njiru’s colorful career saw him attract a large number of sponsors in his heydays. He had all the big spenders with the likes of Standard Chartered Bank, SmithKline Beecham, Coca-Cola, British American Tobacco, Marlboro Cigarettes, Caltex Oil and Hilton Hotels always supporting his dream to win the WRC Safari Rally.