After months of extensive planning and wait, the 10th edition of the East African Safari Classic Rally revved-off in Naivasha yesterday morning.
The event was flagged off by Cabinet Secretary for Sports Amina Mohamed as defending champion Kris Rosenberger sped off first in his Porsche 911.
He was closely followed by African and Kenyan championships winner Carl ‘Flash’ Tundo in a Triumph TR7 and then Baldev ‘Boldy’ Chager, in a another Porsche.
All other 43 drivers followed in tow, at an interval of three minutes each, with different brands of machines that sped off from the Kenya Wildlife Services Training Institute into the wild.
“I’ve been out of competition for five years and I feel I’m starting all over again,” seven-time Kenya National Rally Championships podium finisher Quentin Mitchell said.
Local driver Eric Bengi, who was making his debut in one of the toughest motorsport event in the world, said his Datsun 180B machine is good to go.
“We have taken good care of her, she rides well, we are confident she will deliver for us good results.”
Bengi is one driver on a mission to spread cancer awareness, apart from taking part in the competition.
All drivers converged at the Eburru stage where the battle of man and machine begun.
The speedsters used various technologies to navigate their way and gauge their speed in the remote and expansive wilderness.
They braved the scorching overhead Naivasha sun as they battled for glory in the 496km stretch that snaked its way, passing through Elementaita, Poror, Kipsaos, Kerio Valley, ‘Gods Bridge’, Nyaru and Kiptagich.
Drivers, who got lost or had mechanical breakdown in the expansive conservancies where the route passed, sent SOS for help.
Three helicopter sliced through the air; two ready to offer medical emergencies should need arise, while one carried a team of photojournalists and cameramen who took vantage positions as they told the world of the memorable rally.
The police, National Youth Service and local youths offered security and protection during the race.
Some drivers, like the veteran Frank Tundo, father to ‘Flash’, rolled over, but were still resilient to proceed with the journey.
Some found the going tough, failing to complete a stage, but were allowed to proceed with the race though they will not be ranked at the end of the journey.
Kenyans who could not make it to the various control points, followed the proceedings live on KTN News.
Businessmen in the town capitalised on the event to make an extra coin as hotels along the Moi South Lake region remained fully booked.
Boda Boda riders too, were not left out in the fray as they ferried spectators to the various stages just in time to catch the spectacle action.
Rally fans kept themselves busy, taking photos with the vintage machines. Others, who wanted to keep abreast with the contest, printed the route maps, not ready to miss any action.
After Naivasha, the rally will today head to Nakuru where competitors will cover a whopping 451km of which 242km will be competitive, while the rest will be endurance.
The Nakuru battle will pass through the brand new Stage 4 from Kalou to the Rhino Gate, Stage 5, which starts from Laikipia to Moguni and lastly, Stage six from Il Polei to Loldaiga.