Nish Lakhani: We have lost massive time but we are glad to still be in contention

Four-time Kenya Rally Raid champion Nish Lakhani in action at the ongoing tenth edition of the East African Safari Classic Rally event in Nanyuki. [Courtesy]

When it rains, it pours. This is the lesson that four-time Kenya Rally Raid Championships winner Nish Lakhani is struggling with this week. 

The 50-year-old speedster had fixed his Datsun SSS to his satisfaction. The car was in great shape and condition.

He was all set for the flag-off in Naivasha together with his navigator, Teeku Patel, last Thursday. Then kabooom! Bad luck struck. Their car engine went dead a day to the start of the rally.

To add salt to the injury, the duo realised too late that the spare parts that came from overseas with the car were the wrong specifications.

How depressing can that be!

“Unfortunately, the engine failed a day before the rally was to start,” Lakhani told Standard Sports.

“We sent for a standard, less powered engine which was lent to us by a fellow competitor. We spent the whole night fixing it before the flag off,” he says.

During Day 1 of the event that covered sections of Eburru, Elementaita, Poror, Kipsaos, Nyaru and Kaptagich, Lakhani and Patel were in for a rude shock.

“We realised the car lacked power. This is because we had not completed setting up the engine. It had major heating problems but somehow we managed to finish all the three stages of the day.”

From Day 2, the duo embarked on improving the engine in every service centre they passed.

To their credit, they have not failed to complete any stage of the ongoing 5,000km rally that is already halfway with over 15 drivers out of the ranking charts.

Even though they have lost a lot of time, Lakhani is happy that they are still in the classification in the ongoing rally.

“Indeed, we have lost massive time, but we are still in contention; we are still here to be ranked,” he says.

Ahead of the competition, the father of one had engaged the services of a personal trainer to help him step up his fitness ahead of the energy-sapping contest.

Lakhani and Patel fixed their car with many new parts, including fixing the new engine that failed to function just before D-day.

The duo set a target which was to finish strongly in the top 15 in the event.

After all the problems they have encountered so far, they now feels the only way to achieve their jump in the standings is through attrition in the field ahead of them.

“Despite all these problems, my navigator and I keep on reminding each other about our primary focus in the rally, which is to make it to the finishing line in Watamu,” Lakhani says.

He embraced rallying 20 years ago after he was introduced to the sport by his father Dhiru Lakhani who was a rally driver in the 60s and 70s.