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Meet Ian Duncan: The fast and furious cowboy who speaks fluent Kiswahili

By Bethuel Oduo | June 24th 2021

When the name Ian Duncan is mentioned in Kenya, many Kenyans recall the celebrated rally driver. Born in Limuru in April 1961, Ian has participated and won so many local and international rallies, including the World Rally Championship.

He was a student at St. Mary’s School at the same time with President Uhuru Kenyatta. Ian, however, was more passionate about cars than academics.

He followed his passion and became a very accomplished mechanic for both cars and motorbikes in which he used to take part in many competitions. What many Kenyans do not know is that Ian started driving unofficially when he was 10 years old within their farm in Limuru.

He has had different navigators like Gavin Bennet, David Williamson, Yvonne Mehta (wife of Shekhar Mehta), Ian Munro and Anthony Nielsen. He once used a Nissan Patrol pickup, although his favourite cars are the Toyota, Subaru and Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.

His achievements include several wins in the Rhino Charge competitions which he did in 1998, 2006 and 2007. He also won the Kenya National Rally Championship seven times. In the Classic Safari Rally, Duncan prefers the Ford Mustang or Ford Capri. He also won the Safari Rally proper three times in 1983, 1994 and 1999.

Ian Duncan’s wins have always excited Kenyans who see him as one of their own, having been born, bred and raised in Kenya. He speaks fluent Kiswahili and for many years ran a motor vehicle garage in Karen, Nairobi.

He joins the league of other local rally drivers like Joginder Singh, Vic Preston Junior, Bharat Bhadwaj, Edgar Herman, George Barbour, Richard Barbour, John Barbour, Robin Combes, Mike Doughty, Basi Criticos, Carl Tundo, Abdul Sidi, Patrick Njiru and Phineas Kimathi.

Now in his sixties, Ian has slowed down a bit although still is a regular figure in rally events, either participating or just interacting with enthusiasts. Ian belongs to the group of Kenyans popularly known as Karen Cowboys or KCs.

They are second or third generation whites whose history defines Kenya. Those who took up rallying like Ian Duncan gave Kenya the profile it has because they gave foreign rally drivers a run for their money. They had the advantage of knowing the local terrain and their tough conditions. They knew the so called ‘bundus’ like the back of their hand. In any case, they are true wananchi.

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