It’s all systems go for Equator rally

Thursday, March 16th, 2023 00:00 | By
Rally driver Karan Patel powers his car during last year’s ARC Equator Rally in Naivasha. He will be among the drivers to watch at this year’s event in Voi. PD/ PHILLIP KAMAKYA

It’s all systems go for the Africa Championship Equator Rally this weekend with all competitors already on location for pre-event preparations with organisers promising an incident-free event fully supported by the government which disbursed funds on Tuesday.

The rally, the second round in the Africa series, will pit Kenyans and Uganda drivers in a renewed battle of supremacy in a region which is undergoing a renaissance following harsh economic realities occasioned by the Covid-19-induced recession.

Regional drivers were missing in the R2 category of last year’s Safari due to a lack of suitable machines. Ugandan Yassin Nasser will eventually debut his Ford Fiesta R2 at Taita Estate, Voi, 360km southeast of the capital Nairobi, an area traditionally described as a paradise for speed lovers.

He is ably assisted by compatriot Jas Mangat in his reliable Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X. As usual Kenyans have proven more competitive at home with national champion Karan Patel fielding a Ford Fiesta at the pole position.

Aakif Virani in a third-generation Skoda Fabia and Kilifi- based Piero Canobbio driving a Hyundai i20 Rally 2, brings in a whiff of freshness in the lead-up to the WRC Safari Rally where locals will be able to compete in the WRC R2 and 3 categories with these super machines which were missing in the Kenyan drivers.

Equator Rally remains a dress rehearsal for their WRC Safari Rally engagement.

The rally zooms off on Saturday in two days of action-packed liaison through 421.08 km of transport sections inter-passed with 205.25km of competitive driving.

Leg one transport will be 143.88km, while Competitive will be 159.66km. The Leg Two Transport distance will be 71.95km while the Competitive distance will be 45.59kms bringing together 10 special stages.

Meanwhile, a 5km Qualifying Stage centered around the expansive Teita Sisal Estate in Mwatate will decide the road order for this weekend’s ARC Equator Rally Kenya.

The qualifying stage will definitely be a key feature of the event tomorrow afternoon prior to action proper on Saturday and Sunday.

As is the precedence, the top five fastest drivers in Friday’s qualifying stage will make their way back to the Rally HQs in Voi to choose their preferred starting positions in chronological order from the quickest driver to the slowest.

The ARC Qualifying concept has always created a sense of anxiety prior to the race proper. The fastest of the five drivers will be the first one choose the start position.

Scrutineering, reconnaissance and administrative checks are programed to take place on Thursday.

This will be followed by the Ceremonial Start at the Voi Wildlife Lodge on Friday from 11:00am onwards and Free Practice from midday.

Friday’s Qualifying Stage (Teita 5.00 km) shall commence at 2:00pm followed by Shakedown which is programmed to commence from 3:00pm onwards.

The midday Free Practice on Friday will offer drivers an opportunity to warm up their engines prior to the start of Leg 1 and Leg 2 on Saturday and Sunday respectively.

Friday’s program will also give the media an opportunity to capture pre-rally action well in time.

Kenya has won the ARC title seven times between 1981 and 2022. Trailblazing Shekhar Mehta was the first-ever winner in 1981, while the last Kenyan to win the title was Carl Tundo in 2021. Other Kenyan winners include three times champion Manvir Singh Baryan, Kisumu’s Jassi Chathe and Don Smith.

More on Sports