By Gishinga Njoroge
IT is the Safari; even though a break-neck speed driving affair in the modern era of short stages, the old adage of traditional long-haul Safari applies .. cool, steady, patient driving pays. That could have given “Flying Sikh”, Baldev Chagere Singh, victory at this year’s Safari.
Hot favourites Carl “Flash” Tundo, speed master Manvir Baryan and Onkar Rai all looked headed for victory but Chager, previously winner of only one stage in thge 2019 Safari, an African Rally Championship (ARC) round, tracked them to come out top “at the death” and at Kedong’ in Naivasha. It was “Boldy’s” third Safari win, following the head-to-head of 2013 and 2014.
Marvin Baryan held a 35 second lead most of the final stage before stopping with mechanical failure, was passed by two cars before resuming and it was too late. Baryan had in turn overthrown the overnight lead of Carl Tundo.
Because of his huge stall, Baryan ended up classified sixth and Chager reveled at his Safari victory. Chager now goes into the annals of Kenya history where the performance of Sikh drivers is admired led by the legendary Joginder Singh pioneer winner of the Safari in 1965 and in ’74 and ’76. The Safari is bidding to return on the calendar of the World Rally Championship (WRC), the caliber of which Joginder competed and Kenyans will be looking forward to how Chager will fair if Safari returns to the WRC.
Chager and his co-driver Ravi Soni literally “nursed’ their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo10 out trouble to romp home to a thrillingly famous victory; binding their time to benefit from Baryan’s misfortune in the last remaining few kilometers of the rally.
“I am overjoyed to win. It was a tough battle. One of the most tense and tough event in my rallying career. Make no mistake, I was in this to fight for the outright win.”
Thus, Baryan stays yet to win his Kenyan event despite a big success in the rest of rallies across Africa (ARC). He was disappointed after checking at the final control in the third position.
“That stage was pathetic and should not have been allowed. Our car sucked in lots of dust until the radiator was blocked. The temperature gauge was reading 130 degrees. We lost over six minutes to clean it by then two cars had overtaken us. No happy at all.”
Carl Tundo who missed out on his record of five victories in the Safari Rally, finished in the second place driving a Mitsubishi Lancer with Tim Jessop. He said they were lucky despite several mishaps, which included losing 20 seconds in the final service. Onkar Rai rolled in the second competitive stage of the event while lying in the second overall position in his Skoda Fabia. This was his second consecutive accident in the Safari Rally after having a similar problem in last year’s event.
Though his navigator Gareth Dawe was admitted to the hospital with back injuries in that incident, both him and Rai were lucky to walk away without any injuries yesterday though car was badly damaged.
“We hit couple of bumps at very high speeds before the car nose-dived and rolled. We were lucky there were no injuries but our luck in the Safari Rally seems not improve,’’ said Rai while watching the cars check in at the final TC.
Izhar Mirza and Kavir Dave also escaped serious injuries after their Mitsubishi Lancer also rolled in the second stage of Day Three.
Ian Duncan, the last Kenyan driver to win the Safari Rally when it was part of the WRC, finished in the fourth place in Mitsubishi Lancer Evo10 with Anthony Nielson by his side. Duncan is a multiple Kenya National Rally Champion KNRC) title holder.