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Local speedster Bengi puts on last touches

MOTORSPORT By Ochieng Oyugi | January 14th 2022 | 3 min read


Driver Eric Bengi and Navigator Gatimu Mindo (left) next to Datsun 180 B during the official launch of The East African Safari Classic Rally at Marula in Karen, Nairobi. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Kenya National Rally Championship speedster Eric Bengi and his team are set to complete their preparations ahead of the 10th edition of the East Africa Safari Classic Rally (EASCR) next week.

Bengi and his co-driver Gatimu Mindo will comb the rough terrains of 12 Kenyan counties, which will be traversed by the drivers on February 10 to 18, in a Datsun 180B vintage car.

The duo will compete under the Team East Africa Safari Classic umbrella after the race organisers came to their support ahead of the event.

"We spent better part of the holiday moulding the car to its required specifications. We hope to finalise everything in the coming days," Felix Kimathi, Team  East Africa Safari Classic Manager, told Standard Sports, yesterday.

Kimathi said they gained a lot of experience from the Mini Classic competition held last November which was won by the race defending champion Baldev Chager.

"Mini Classic gave us invaluable exposure. It showed us what to expect during the intense nine days of the EASCR next month," Kimathi said.

Ahead of the contest, Bengi's crew is engaging in endurance activities apart from 'panel beating' the car to shape.

"We are dieting and meditating to sharpen our mental acuity. We are exercising a lot to make our bodies in sync with the race," Kimathi said.

Bengi says he's determined to follow in the footsteps of legendary drivers Shekhar Mehta, Joginder Singh and Ian Duncan, who are previous champions of the competition.

Bengi is already excited to be the first indigenous driver to declare his intention for this season's trophy.

"Our objective is to gain experience, but we also want to win the competition," said Bengi.

Yesterday, the championship received a Sh10 million boost from Victoria Commercial Bank to cater for various logistics involved.

"We are honoured to partner with the EASCR. As a child, I used to look forward to the event every year," " Victoria Commercial Bank CEO Yogesh Pattani said.

"Our involvement in the contest seeks to bring back the nostalgia and sportsmanship that was associated with the legendary motorsport showpiece."

"We believe this sponsorship will go a long way in assisting organisers plan, facilitate and ultimately have a successful event," he added.

According to Pattani, motorsport has been a major spectacle for Kenyans across several generations which his organisation is proud to be associated with as they seek to build a unified global community through  rally.

Pattani's sentiments were echoed by EASCR Manager, Sinder Sudle, who reiterated that they want to take the race back to the people.

Event Director, Natasha Tundo, said that despite the turbulent period the world is experiencing due to the prolonged Covid-19 pandemic, they are prepared for the forthcoming nine-day adrenaline-filled contest.

She said they already have 48 entries and are expecting two more.

"As EASCR, we are commited to market Kenya during the event. We will show the global audiences the best our country can offer during the race," Tundo said.

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