Kenyan speedster Raaji Bharij clocked 02:38:55.0 to take lead on day of the East African Mini Classic Rally that was flagged off in Nakuru County yesterday.
His lead made a strong statement of intent to defending champion Baldev Chager who struggled and was forced to end the day in fourth place.
Coming second on the day was another Kenyan duo of Piers Daykin and Tarik Malik - in a Datsun 280z - who were 5:32 behind Bharij.
In third place was multiple national rally champion Ian Duncan, also in a Datsun 280Z- who was 7:32 behind the overnight leader.
Driving a Ford Escort MK1, Bharij and his navigator Ravi Soni set the third fastest time in the 90km-Stage 1 (Solai to Bogoria), finishing 25 seconds behind stage leader Remon Vos of the Netherlands.
In the second stage (Endau-Kibingor), Bharij went two better when he set the second fastest time to clinch the course, clocking 51 seconds better than second-placed Geoff Bell of South Africa.
Chager, who is eyeing a hat-trick of Mini Classic titles, recovered from a lacklustre show in the opening two stages to set the fastest time at the 78km closing stage of the day (Saos-Kipsaos).
The Dutch-Belgian team of Remon Vos and Stephane Prevot were the early pacesetters, clinching the first stage of the day with their Porsche 911 on the 90km stretch from Solai-Bogoria - with a 16-second advantage over Daykin.
The annual rally being held across five Kenyan counties of Nakuru, Baringo, Uasin Gishu and Elgeyo Marakwet and Trans Nzoia was a crowd puller with hundreds of residents gathering to cheer on the cars as the drivers sped through each of the stages with zest and vigor.
Meanwhile, it was a day to forget for another legend of Kenyan motorsports, Carl ‘Flash’ Tundo.
“First section, we did not do too well. We got to around 80km and the front suspension arm broke. We didn’t hit anything so we had to spend around one hour changing it. The next section was nice.
“I think we were okay through that but we’ve lost the oil cooler so it’s getting a bit hot,” Tundo said.
The drivers tackled the grueling 405km day one mileage, which included an energy-sapping 90km opening stage between Solai and Bogoria before proceeding to the 39km Endau second stage.
They then tackled the third and last section of the day which ran, all the way from Saos to Kipsaos (78km).
With multiple roadside remote service sessions permitted, crew were only allowed one major service at the end of day in Eldoret.
The cars will restart at Rupa Mall in Eldoret today morning to endure the next three stages before embarking on the closing day tomorrow.