Inclement weather conditions have forced organisers of the 2018 ARC Safari Rally to replace the first competitive stage Aberdares with Kedong.
The clerk of the course, Gurvi Bhabra said they arrived at the decision after realising that two dams with a bridge in between were swelling up and on the brink of breaking their banks following heavy rains pounding the foothills of the Aberdares.
“The steep hill preceding the bridge is extremely slippery and impassable even with a 4x4 wheel car,” said Bhabra. Aberdares is 12km long but quite challenging. It is also scenic. This now means that drivers will start with the Kedong 32km section overlooking Mt. Longonot in a private ranch on the floor of the Rift Valley. Drivers will on Saturday do the Soysambu ranch section, repeated twice and end the Safari in Kedong on Sunday. These new changes have increased the Safari distance.
Heavy rains are expected to throughout the rally weekend but Bhabra does not expect any serious problems as his deputy has been supervising the grading of rough sections to conform with World Rally Championship gravel road sections. A whirlwind of activities kick off today and tomorrow with the start of recce and scrutineering in Soysambu and Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani gate 8/9 respectively.
Meanwhile, the 2015 ARC champion Jaspreet Singh Chatthe (aka Jassi) tops a star-studded list of drivers who will contest the second round of the FIA African Rally Championship in the Great Rift Valley’s Delamere Farm and Aberdare Hills this weekend.
Kisumu-based Chatthe, who also won the 2015 Kenya National Rally Championship, will be the first off the ramp, according to the list released this week. Chatthe will nonetheless will be minus his regular navigator Gurdeep Panesar and will tackle the 66th edition of Safari with Englishman James Morgan.
Chatthe became the first Kenyan to rack up the ARC alongside the local national series in a single season with another experienced Briton Craig Thorlay. Team Kibos speedster will take off ahead of the Kabras Sugar duo of local series leader Onkar Rai (Skoda R5) and Bladev Charger (Mitsubishi Evo X). The seeded entry list which features the fastest rally drivers will see the reigning African champion Manvir Baryan off in fourth position.
Local hero Carl ‘Flash’ Tundo is seeded fifth ahead of youngster Kenyan Karan Patel and three time Ugandan NRC champion Jas Mangat. Mangat is back on Kenyan soil to raffle feathers on his R4 Evolution X.
Although no one knows what’s up the sleeves of Mangat that will be known when the premier Kenyan motoring event revs off on Friday from the traditional Kenyatta International Conventional Centre on Friday. Mangat is not stranger on the Safari having finished second behind Carl Tundo in 2011.
Tundo, son of veteran Safari driver Frank, is seeking to equal the legendary five wins of Shekhar Mehta. All of Tundo’s four wins have been achieved during the African Rally Championship era with Shekha’s five during the World Rally Championship days.