Chager ready to defend East African Safari Classic Rally title

From left: East African Safari Classic Rally Chairman Joey Ghose, Clerk of the Course Renzo Bernardi and Event Director Raju Chaggar receive a dummy cheque from Safaricom's Head Fintech Solutions Juliana Rotich in Nairobi. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Defending champion Baldev Singh Chager is among the 63 drivers who will battle for glory in the 11th edition of the East African Safari Classic Rally (EASCR) this year.

The gruelling 4000km cutthroat race will be held on December 9-18. It will traverse 11 counties cutting across Kilifi, Nakuru, Nairobi and back.

Other top drivers out to unseat Chager include former champion Kris Rosenberger of Austria who will be navigated by his long term German partner Nicola Bleicher.

Safari Rally legend Ian Duncan, who finished third last season, is also searching for the ultimate formula to dethrone the reigning Kabras Sugar racing ace from the crown.

"We have done lots of preparations to get the car ready, we have done lots of testing including a few local rallies, all I can say is that we are hopefully coming out really good," Duncan told Standards Sports at the media briefing in Nairobi yesterday.

Rajesh Maini, who will ply trade in a Ford Escort MK1, said he has no pressure at all to battle Chager from the top seat.

"I'm targeting a top 20 finish, my aim is to keep the car on the road and bring it home in one piece due to the ongoing El Nino rains pounding the country," said Maini, whose pace notes will be called out by Devan Bhundia.

Rally legend Glen Edmunds, who will be navigated by Lloyd Destro, is aiming for the top 15 after his 22nd finish last year.

"Due to mud, wetness and the slippery conditions of the roads because of the ongoing rains, I think everyone will be at par in this competition.

"It will be skills of the crew that will matter in this battle," said Edmunds who will rove in a Skoda.

Leading mobile services providers Safaricom have injected a Sh6 million boost as leading national broadcaster Standard Group PLC prepares to relay the contest to the millions of Kenyans and those beyond on its various media platforms.

Clerk of Course Renzo Bernardi has warned the drivers to prepare for a challenging route that has new sections.

"We will carry on with recce throughout because there can be last minute changes on the roads due to the heavy rains," Bernardi underlined.

The EASCR chairman Joey Ghose hailed the record 63  entries saying it is historic as it surpases the 48 realised last year.

"Unfortunately, due to accommodation and night-rallying limitations, there are only 63 places 

"One of our core tenets, safety, is of paramount to the Classic Rally, hence the 
limitation of entrants.

"This means that more than 15 aspiring entrants will have to sit out this event.

"In the future, EASCR plans to ensure that all local classic rally car owners have the chance to compete in some form," the EASCR stated.

This year’s event will be very interesting as the variety of cars entered is diverse; they range from the usual brigade of Tuthill Porsches, more Porsches from BMA and other teams, there is also a 2-car Morgan team, an Opel Manta 400, an Ascona 400, a large number of Datsun Violet’s joining the 240Z’s, the ever-popular Ford Escorts, a few Toyota Levins, a Trabant and a Mercedes 500SLC.

There is an all-lady team from the Czech Republic, driven by Olga Lounova, a renowned singer, and her navigator Lilia Khousnoutdinova.They are bringing with them female mechanics – a first for rallying in Kenya.

"We also have 11 families taking part, from father and sons, brothers and sisters, daughters, 
yet again proving the Classic is an event for the whole family!," the federation highlighted.

The rally will kick off in Vipingo on December 9 with a shakedown stage, welcoming all 
spectators to come and watch the 20km contest that will enable the seeding of the event.

"The true rally starts on Sunday 9am and travels North for three days until the rest day in Nairobi at 
the Carnivore, a grueling 6-hour service for the crews, before heading back down South, to the climax in Diani on December 18," the federation added.

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