Bring it on
Kenyan champion Baldev Singh Chager looks forward to this year’s Safari Rally with great expectations especially after the race was incorporated back to the World Rally Championships (WRC) calendar after 19 years’ absence.
The reigning Safari champion is excited that the event will offer home drivers an opportunity to brush shoulders with the big boys of world rallying when the fabled Safari Rally returns to the FIA World Rally Championship from June 24-27.
Chager candidly admits defending the coveted Safari title against WRC’s crème de la crème will be a tall order given the intricate nature of their high-flying WRC machines.
The KNRC log leader after KCB Nakuru Rally 2021 is also glad that the fast stage times anticipated from WRC cars will indeed help local drivers up their game and approach the Safari with the much-needed aggression and gusto.
Chager has only driven in one WRC Safari in 1998 whereby he finished 15th overall with Tinu Khan in a Subaru Legacy.
“From the current group of drivers, I think it’s only myself, Ian (Duncan) and Carl (Tundo) that have done the proper Safari when it counted towards the world series.
The Safari at the time was a very long endurance drive and quite different from the present day sprint format we are going to expect next year,” Tundo told People Sport.
He added: “All in all, it will be an amazing feeling being a part of WRC Safari. As locals we have an advantage of local knowledge and experience.
A perfect example is the WRC candidate Safari which we won in 2019. We managed to win it on the very last stage at Kedong.
The whole rally we were lying second and Manvir (Baryan) was leading. But there was a huge amount of dust on a 100m stretch at Kedong.
How Manvir tackled the dust and how we tackled was very different.
He sucked in all the dust while Tundo and I managed to avoid it by literally keeping one foot on the side.”
“You also have to remember that WRC drivers have a lot of experience from the whole world from racing in the desert to Argentina to Europe and rough gravel in Greece.
So they’re not far behind and if you look at most of their team managers are actually retired rally drivers.
The WRC car has everything modified to it from the engine, transmission to suspension travel.
The R5 cars currently being run in Kenya are a step lower than the WRC car.
The R4 cars that we drive are standard production cars homologated by the FIA but running with a standard engine, meaning we there is no hope that any local can beat a WRC driver.
But the fact that we will run the same route, it will help us compare our times and pull up our socks.”
Safari returned to the global series after an 18-year hiatus but was postponed from 2020 to 2021 due to Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.
WRC Safari Rally chief executive officer, Phineas Kimathi, says his secretariat is still working on initial timelines that assume the rally was still running on its initial dates of July 16 to 19, 2020.
Kimathi said: “We are following the initial schedule that we had set out for last year’s Safari Rally which was postponed to 2021 die to the global outbreak of Coronavirus. So we are way ahead of schedule,” Kimathi explained.