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Nakuru remembers rally speed devil Vic Preston Junior

Vic Preston Junior, one of the finest rally drivers Kenya has produced, died on Tuesday night in Seychelles after suffering a bout of pneumonia. He was 72. [Courtesy]

When the name Vic Preston Junior was mentioned in Nakuru in the seventies, it came with a price tag. Vic Preston Junior died in Seychelles on March 15, 2022.

The price tag came from betting teenagers who put a 10 to 20-cent-bet on who would be the winner of the motorsports and motorcycle race at Nakuru’s Lang Langa circuit that particular weekend.

And most rally enthusiasts ended up seeing the Kawasaki motorbike Number 11 whose owner was Vic Preston Jr carrying the day.

And on that weekend, some of the motorsports fans who could not pay their way into the Langa Langa circuit arena would climb on the rooftops or hang on the racecourse fence to have a glimpse of the speedy machines and motorbikes on every first weekend of every quarter.

And when the death of Vic Preston Jr was confirmed on March 15, the same teenagers now in their mid-50s congregated in a Nakuru pub to pay their last respects to the legend who later became a Safari Rally champion in an event that was the hallmark of motorsports in Africa and worldwide.

“We really missed this guy (Preston Jr) in his racing days here and in Safari Rally and those days are really memorable. May the Almighty God Rest His Soul in Eternal Peace,” said Peter Njoroge.

Preston Jr is remembered on his Kawasaki motorbike Number 11 in the seventies.

For a decade, Preston Jr dominated many motorbike championships in the then 12km-Langa Langa Racecourse track in the then Nakuru Municipality before the land where it stood on was later sold and sub-divided to develop the current mid-income Racecourse Estate.

Like father, like son.

Preston Jr inherited the love for motorsports from his father, Vic Preston Senior.

Victor Preston in the foreground, 1962. [Courtesy]

All of them loved and were mad about it (motorsports) before they later became a prominent rallying family for over five decades.

That is the Vic Preston family, who operated the Vic Preston Shell Petrol Station along University Way in Nairobi, the biggest at the time.

Vic Preston Senior was a one-time chief judge of Concours d’Elegance and a Safari Rally champion in 1953 then referred to as Coronation Rally (later renamed East African Safari Rally).

DP Marwaha was Vic Preston Senior long time co-driver.

Preston Snr went on to win the rallies of 1954 in a VW Beetle and in 1955 in a Ford Zephyr Mark I with Marwaha as the co-driver.

He (Preston Senior) also a three-time winner of the Grass Track Challenge Cup at the Sikh Union Grounds from 1947-1949 and was later twice voted as Motorsports Man of the Year from 1960-1961.

The father of two (including Vic Preston Jr) and the husband to Jane Preston died by suicide in 1998.

Preston Jr plunged into motorsports at the age of 16 in 1966.

His life revolved around motorsports like did his father in the Ford, Lancia, Audi, Porsche and Nissan factory teams.

He was a household name in Kenya in the years of the East African Safari Rally and Gerrish Robert was always his co-driver with a remarkable career that spanned 24 years from 1966 to 1990.

His best finish in the WRC series was in the 1978 Safari Rally when he finished second overall and first in Kenya and raced 21 times in the WRC category securing podium finish twice.

Victor Preston Senior at Aintree in 1962. His son would follow in his footsteps. [File]

In the 1990 Marlboro Safari Rally, he retired at position 11 over suspension problems in a Nissan 200 SX co-driven by John Lyall.

Later, he relocated to Seychelles where he ran a petrol station after a successful motorsports stint in Kenya.

Preston Jr won a total of 16 rallies in Kenya having a podium finish 25 times in his memorable career.

He competed twice in the Great Britain Lindisfarne Rally securing a stage win in 1973 and finishing third overall.

Preston Jr was born on November 20, 1950, in a rallying family.

His father, Vic Preston Senior, was an accomplished driver who won the iconic Safari Rally way back in 1967 and whose best WRC result was an overall second position in the 1978 Safari Rally in a Porsche 911.

Preston Senior’s other accomplishment was a third place finish in the 1980 WRC Safari Rally in a Mercedes 450LC.

John Llyall was Preston Jr regular navigator in his Safari Rally heroics.

Upon his death, many condolences messages from a number of motorsports personalities led by Kenya Motorsports Federation (KMSF) chairman Phineas Kimathi were received.

Kimathi described him as one of Kenya’s rally pillars.

And on behalf KMSF, WRC-Kenya and the rally fraternity, he said “Preston Jr was a well-sought driver in Africa even when he was not among the top ten in the starting line-up”.

Others who sent their condolences were former Safari Rally Champions Glen Edmunds (2002 and 2005) and Mike Kirkland.

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