Classic Rally: Italian Amos grabs a surprise lead on day three

Italian driver Eugenio Amos and Paolo Ceci in a Porsche 911 along Sokoke-Samburu road during the 2023 East African Safari Classic Rally on Sunday.[Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Surprises dominated the third day of the East African Safari Classic Rally (EASCR) that saw Italian Eugenio Amos eclipse Geoff Bell of South Africa from the top on Tuesday in a cutthroat race that covered 514.24km from Amboseli to Naivasha.

Amos clocked a cumulative 6:17:55.2 to open 3 minutes 13.2 seconds lead at the top with his Tuthill Porsche 911 machine that is decorated with giraffe colours to depict his love for animals.

Bell, who was in the lead in the first two days, settled for second place in 6:21:08.4 following his overheating from his car that gave him trouble for the better part of the day.

Defending champion Baldev Chager is still again the best-ranked Kenyan after he clocked 6:30:42.1 to move from fifth to third.

The Kabras Sugar speedster who is 12 minutes 46.9 seconds apart from the race leader is yet to get the right foothold since the rally zoomed off on Sunday.

On Monday, Chager lost eight minutes trying to complete the opening stage and on Tuesday he was delayed by a puncture in the starting stretch.

"It was another crazy day for us, stages were nice but the rains took a toll on us, there were so many rocks hiding on the road despite the enjoyable sceneries," Chager told Standard Sports.

"I just had to be careful when I saw rocks, but again we still had a puncture, so we had no choice but to stop and change that," he underlined.

Chager stated that him and navigator Gareth Dawe have opted to be extra careful on the road following their Monday ordeal which led them to massive time waste.

He still believes Bell has an upper hand in the rally despite the South African suffering several mechanical gremlins on day three.

"Geoff is having a little bit of trouble as his car is overheating, so he's not pushing either which is working to our advantage but once he gets the car going, bridging the gap will be much more difficult," Chager warned.

Though he's on the lead, Amos summed up his day three as a tricky affair due to the rough terrain he battled.

"We had issues with stage two, we doubted our pace notes a few minutes towards its end so we stopped and asked one spectator if he saw other rally cars passing in the area before us, he suggested that it was the right way so we went all flat out and my navigator Paolo did an amazing job that saved us from losing time," Amos explained.

Amos says they will try to keep calm behind the wheel to guard their lead as there is still a very long distance and lots of stages to tackle in the remaining days.

Some drivers like Phillip Kadoorie of Hong Kong ended the day dejected after his Porsche 911 attracted all manner of problems on the rough route.

Kadoorie and his Kenyan co-driver Ryan Champion battled to change two gearboxes and five punctures that saw them dip from third to seventh.

"It was a very hurting day for us, but again we are still delighted to be in the rally.

"We hope to go better tomorrow though it has been a hard rally so I'm looking forward to the rest day on Thursday.

"Still it's quite sad that I can't go on Safari as I always do on rest days because I got a little bit of work to do," Kadoorie highlighted.

John Coyne of Ireland who topped the Prologue on Saturday withdrew from the rally after he suffered an inner ear imbalance. He has been replaced by Eoin Treacy.

The fourth day of the rally will zoom off from Naivasha and will end at Tamarind Tree Hotel in Nairobi on Wednesday, covering a total distance of 322.74km.

Among the stages the drivers will tackle are Kongoni-Ngare Engare (35km), Najile -Oltepesi (58km) and Kamukuro-Hunters Look Out (93km).

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