Amiable exponent of Kenyan Rally Rajesh nears dream
In his seventh year of active racing, the amiable exponent of Kenyan Rally Raid Rajesh Maini is about to see the realization of a dream.
Maini, 44, will finally be making his debut on the eighth edition of the Kenya Airways East African Safari Classic Rally when home-based and international teams embark on the mammoth 4,000km drive from Sarova Whitesands in the county of Mombasa from November 23.
“It’s always been my dream to do the Safari Rally ever since I was a little kid. I vividly remember at the age of 4 when dad took us round the Safari route course to catch a glimpse of the classic machines zoom past remote Kenyan villages: so ingrained was our love for the sport and the world beaters who visited the country to grace the then World Rally Championship adventure. So to brush shoulders– in a competitive atmosphere– with the same renowned Safari stalwarts like Stig Blomqvist and Ian Duncan who we adored back in the day, is a dream come true.”
Asked of his passion, gusto and goal for the forthcoming biennial event, Rajesh noted that his primary aim will literally be to drive sensibly and bring his homebuilt Ford Escort Mark 1 contraption back in one piece at the Mombasa finish ramp on December 1.
“The essence for our team will be to finish the Safari Classic because as a team we will be a lot more conservative to drive within our limits. Our realistic target, though, would be to confine ourselves within the top 20 bracket considering the fact that we are Classic virgins. For this Safari, we will not fit in the power steering as both of us have been busy in the gym trying to enhance our body strength to endure nine days of competitive driving,” remarked Rajesh.
Dream come true
Rajesh’s dream to partake in the “world’s toughest marathon historic rally” was conceived many years ago but the project came to fruition four years ago while supporting his friend Nish Lakhani on the Classic and he has never looked back from then on.
“It’s an absolute dream come true and I’m just so grateful and appreciative that the opportunity has presented itself,” Rajesh said.
The Mark1, Rajesh reveals, will undergo a short performance test program once complete. The car is currently stripped to the shell at his Nairobi backyard.
“We will not risk bashing the car during any of the local events because the classic will be coming too soon,” said the Nairobi based chartered building surveyor.
“I have built the Mark 1 at home with the help of Iain Freestone on realization that the Mark 1s are cheaper, affordable and have available parts. I have done two rallies (2015 Guru Nanak and 2016 Top Fry 1000) on the Mark 1 and I am not willing to make any unnecessary risks of testing the car in a local Rally prior to the Safari Classic. Its a 1975 model build by myself and my home-trained mechanic Felix Ochieng Dege. It runs on s 2litre Pinto engine which is a basic engine available for this car. With the help of Jim Heather Hayes we have managed to fit in MCA suspensions.”
Rajesh believes his experience as an off road expert will come in handy and give him good knowledge to read the road better.
“We deliberately did our last two rallies on tulips notes to familiarize the actual situation as this is the format applicable in the Safari Classic. So we have good knowledge of the road but our biggest fear is when heavens open we will be left with no option but to struggle through the course.”
Rajesh’s Mark 1 will run in his traditional carroty livery and sponsored by USN.
“We’re grateful to USN for coming on board as our official partners of the Safari Rally. During the event we shall savour a wide range of USN products which will be key to our rehydration during the nine day adventure. ”
Rajesh adds that his good relationship with his navigator and team of mechanics will also serve as a key ingredient to the team success.
“Key to a good partnership is to remain friends during tense moments. I’m a rally driver who sits and listens to my navigator and team. So we are good friends in and out of the car which helps in building a cohesive force when it really matters.”
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