The day is finally here after two years of waiting.
This morning, engines will roar and gears will shift as Kenya will once again be the focus of motorsports lovers across the world when over 50 drivers start their battle for glory in the tenth edition of the East African Safari Classic Rally in Naivasha.
The vintage machines will be flagged off at the Kenya Wildlife Institute Service Park at 6am.
The vehicles will cover a total of 496km on Day 1 of which 242km will be competitive while the rest of the journey will be enduring.
The opening Stage One, stretching from Eburru to Elementaita (33.42km), is relatively short and is meant to settle the drivers.
Stage 2 will cruise from Poror to Kipsaos. This is where the real challenge of the rally will begin.
Here, the speedsters will pass along the iconic Kerio Valley and the famous ‘Gods Bridge’ which will be a true testament of endurance.
Lastly, the participants will tackle the last Stage 3 that snakes from Nyaru to Kiptagich.
There will be some hair-raising descend here, at the historic fluorspar mining area. This will be a real test of man and machine.
Top drivers to watch
Among the speed merchants ready to tackle the 5000km journey from Naivasha to Watamu are the Kenyan trio of Baldev ‘Boldy’ Chager, Carl ‘Flash’ Tundo, Ian Duncan and the defending champion Kris Rosenberger of Austria.
Former Kenyan champion Lee Rose, YouTube guru Ken Block and former Kenya National Rally Championships ace Quentin Mitchell will be other forces to watch.
1.Carl ‘Flash’ Tundo
He will start the race full of confidence after bagging the African and Kenyan championships last year. He achieved the feat using two different machines; a Polo R5 and a Mitsubishi Evo X. The 48-year-old also boasts of six victories in the Safari Rally.
He will be out to reclaim his EASCR double title he won in 2015 and 2017.
He lost the crown to Rosenberger in 2019 after failing to enter the event for personal reasons.
“I’m out to bring out my ‘A’ game everyday in the stages,” said Tundo, who believes only Chager stands between him and the trophy.
“The first three stages of the Rally will be crucial; without knowing the route, competitors can only guess where the organisers are taking them.”
Tundo believes his prior knowledge of the Kenyan roads will give him advantage over the foreigners.
Lastly, Tundo is proud as he will be competing against his father Frank who has done over 60 rallies in his lifetime
2. Baldev Chager
Chager is a four-time KNRC winner (2008, 2013, 2014 and 2019). He is also a three-time Safari Rally winner.
In 2019, he emerged the World Rally Championships (WRC) Candidate Rally champion ahead of the WRC return to Kenya after a 19-year hiatus.
He is a two-time Top Fry Classic Rally champion and a double Mini Classic Rally winner.
The only trophy he believes is missing in his cabinet is the EASCR where his best ever performance was a third place finish in 2017.
‘Boldy’ heads to the competition inspired by victory in the Mini Classic last November where he bagged seven of the nine stages, beating rally legend Ian Duncan by seven minutes.
“I believe in this game. It’s not the fastest driver who wins, but the one who can find a quick but clean pace and stick to it all event long,” he said.
3. Ian Duncan
He has won multiple KNRC titles. Duncan has triumphed in the Classic Rally twice which has entered him in the EASCR Hall of Fame alongside other international legends including Collinge Rob (twice), Bjorn Waldegard (twice) and Stig Blomqvist (once).
He has been tipped by legends Azar Anwar, Steve Gacheru and Sylvia King for victory. He has one of the best back up crew as his efficient Minti Motorsport team are fully behind him.
“He is a great driver, he has prepared his car well, he has an amazing support never seen before,” King said.
4. Kris Rosenberger ( Austrian)
He is the defending champion. He is out to make it two in a row. He has pledged to give Kenyan aces a run for their money.
“To win the Classic is tough, to do it twice in a row is almost unheard of. Infact, it hasn’t been done since Rob Collinge did a double in 2003 and 2005.”
He has racked seven podium finishes in the KNRC. He has been out of motorsport for four years as he took time to reset and focus. He is out to use the EASCR as a relaunch to his motorsport career.
“My target is a top ten finish,” he said.
6. Khan family
Aslam, Arshad, Farhaaz, Imran and Shakeel will be a family force in the contest. All are targeting a top ten finish.
Aslam and Arshad are very experienced. They have entered in almost all the edition since the event’s inception in 2003. Shakeel will be making his debut.