The 63rd KCB Safari Rally dubbed “Bringing Rally to the People” is here with us again and the interesting facet is that it has reverted back to its former identity that elicited immense excitement amongst its followers, on the Easter weekend.
What’s more, the event has made a sharp about-turn as after being identified as sprint event in the recent years, it’s now more of an endurance run-a rally akin to that of the 70’s when drivers tackled lengthy route courses.
This year’s event is not any different from the long distance aspect as crews have the enviable task of covering a mind-boggling 1000 Kilometres in an event that will traverse five counties including Nairobi, Kiambu, Laikipia, Meru and Machakos.
With the impending battle of man and machine, there has been an introduction of several road side services ostensibly because the mileage is bigger.
The rally in which Meru Forest will be in use will have Loldaiga as the longest stage at 54.77 kilometres while Meru ASK showground will be the shortest at 2.7 kilometres.
There will be five spectator stages of which three (Ngare Ndare, Lisa Ranch and Nkunga) will be park and walk alongside Meru ASK Showground and another at Machakos People’s Park which are expected to attract crowds in their hordes. Ngare Ndare is located after the turn-off of Timau, with Nkunga on Meru-Isiolo Road and Lisa Ranch in Konza, some 9 kilometres off Mombasa Road.
At the Meru ASK Showground spectators will be privileged to enjoy the KCB Cashless village where different games and food will be on offer and fans will be using alternative channels to pay for the games in the village.
“This is an opportunity for KCB customers to experience banking alternatives through our spectrum of cash less offering currently in the market.” said KCB Group Director Marketing and Communications Angela Mwirigi.
As Mount Kenya region which is rich in flora and fauna prepares to host what is easily the toughest event in the Kenya National Rally Championships (KNRC) calendar, the Safari Rally will play a significant role in promoting sports tourism.
The rally will be flagged off at traditional landmark Kenyatta International Conference Centre on Easter Friday 3rd April 2015 where the first driver will roll off the ramp at the KICC at 9.00 a.m.
Drivers will then tackle a 69.50 Kilometres of liaison distance through to Konza Service where they will have a privilege of 10 minutes given to service their vehicles. They will then head back to the refuel zone at Konza before tackling their first stage of 39.55 Kilometres stage at Lisa Ranch. They will return to Konza refuel stage for the third time after which they will tackle a 5.90 Kilometres stage at Machakos People’s Park then head to refuel zone before repeating the Lisa Ranch section with a 45 minute service after the Lisa Ranch stage will be given to drivers before heading back to Nairobi where they will assemble at KICC for overnight perce ferme.
Day two on April 4 which will be a Saturday will see the combatants restart at 5.30 pm and then head for refuel first at Shell Petrol Station on Thika Road and Shell Petrol Station in Karatina. The next destination is a road side service just before the Legetia start and they will do five stages including Lengetia, Loldaiga, Ngare Ndare, Nkunga and ASK Meru Spectator Stage, covering the day’s total of 420.92 kilometres of which 125.92 kilometres will be competitive.
Day three which will be the last will literally be a test of nerves and skills for drivers as they will cover 10 stages, which is not for the faint-hearted. At ASK showground, they will make two repeats then make a second run of Loldaiga, once each in Kisima and Kibirichia stage make a second run of Nkunga before proceeding to Meru Forest.
Crews will be covering a mammoth cumulative total of 1042.66 kilometres. From the total mileage, 364 kilometres will be competitive while 678 kilometres will be liaison distance. With drivers rubbing their hands with glee ahead of the rally, former British and Finn champion Tapio Laukkanen is certainly one of those to watch. Laukkanen leads the KNRC series and is expected to bring a touch of class albeit with stiff challenge from Safari Rally defending champion Baldev Chager, Ian Duncan, Rajbir Rai and four-times champion Carl Tundo.
Chager has two Safari titles under his belt, which is three shy of the ones collected by legendary Shekhar Mehta, but clinching the third one is not too much to ask given his alluring form lately.
It will also be interesting to observe what’s up the sleeves of Duncan who will be unveiling a new car, a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 10. A protracted battle looms in other categories including 2WD, S Class, SPV, Division 1, 2 and 3.
Further afield, there is a blood rivalry among the family of Frank Tundo and his children Carl and Tash. The older Tundo has seen rally technology morph through different guises and is tipped to give the young turks a run for their money. There is also a sibling partnership between Khan brothers Aslam and Arshad who have a combined cockpit age of over 110 years.
The prize giving will be held at the Meru ASK showground on 5th March 2015.