Kisumu-based Jaspreet ‘Jassi’ Chatthe navigated by Gurdeep Panesar in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 10 took the overnight lead in the 65th edition of Safari Rally after leg one drama which culminated at Bufallo Mall Naivasha.
Chatthe who is going for his third straight Safari title went to bed with a paltry one second lead from Flying Finn Tapio Laukkanen in the day’s last section at Aberdare Hills in Naivasha.
Laukkanen had dominated the stages leading from stage two up till the penultimate run, but had to play second fiddle to Chatthe who drove like a man possessed on the last stage of the day yesterday.
Chatthe who is the 2015 African champion shocked everyone when he checked into the last control with a total of 38.40 minutes.
Laukkanen cleared the day’s four sections with a cumulative total of 38.41 minutes with Baldev Chager coming in third with 39.16.
Current KNRC leader Manvir Baryan drove his Skoda Fabia R5 machine to fourth place ahead of Carl Tundo who wrapped up his leg one campaign in fifth.
Baryan who is among the Kenyan rising stars was lying second after the Ngong section.
Chager, who was first on the road said:”Its a little bit rough and wet in Kedong and we are happy to be motoring still. It was dry in the Aberdares.”
Baryan said: "We glazed over rough sections, but am fine. I expect a podium today."
Ian Duncan who last won the Safari in 1994 during the WRC days settled for sixth place. He was the earlier pacesetter when he beat Laukkanen by a mere one second after the 2km CS1 Jamhuri Park super special which is incidentally the event’s shortest section.
The 400km event which is one of the shortest in the history of the Safari culminates today at Afraha Stadium.
The technical finish will be at Albizia but the cars will head to Afraha in a convoy for the ceremonial finish which will be graced by Nakuru County Governor Kinuthia Mbugua.
A total of 45 cars led by Chager started the 65th Safari from the KICC.
The cars moved to the Jamhuri Spectator Stage where a large crowd enjoyed the drivers competing on a dual track.
Sports Cabinet Secretary Hassan Wario flagged off the cars from KICC. Wario reiterated Kenya’s plans of returning to the WRC.
He said he will, alongside Kenya Motor Sports Federation Chairman Phineas Kimathi, appear before Parliamentary Budget Committee on Monday to defend their proposal for the government to sponsor Kenya’s Safari World Rally Championship bid.
Speaking during the ceremonial flag off at the KICC yesterday, the minister said the government is committed to this course which gained traction last when the government wrote to the WRC Promoter promising total support.
The Safari Rally 2017 is supported by KCB official Banking Partner, Liquid Telcommunications, official connectivity and Timing Solutions partner, Red Bull - official Energy partner and Avery Weigh equipment.