Safari Classic entrants brace for November showdown


Mahesh Halai and Ketan Halai power their Subaru N12B machine at a past Guru ...
Mahesh Halai and Ketan Halai power their Subaru N12B machine at a past Guru Nanak Rally event. (PHOTO/Courtesy/Cymoncy Images)

With slightly under six months remaining before the 8th East African Safari Classic Rally zooms off, the big boys eying the crown are sparing no expense to ensure their classic machines are in good nick.

And with a considerable number of entrants burning the midnight oil in various locations, some have gone an extra mile to shake off a few cobwebs at recent rallying competitions across Africa.

Geoff Bell, a veteran of five Safari Classics and his Kenyan navigator Tim Challen ventured as far a filed to the North for the Maroc Historic Rally to gauge their mettle ahead of the 2017 edition that will run from November 23 to December 1 in Kenya.

“The tour was such a great experience for us. The gravel was very smooth and I must admit we enjoyed every bit of it through to the closing control. Having participated in a number of competitions since 2015, we feel we are now in very good form. Chances are high that we will be on the podium in 2017,” Challen charged.

In Morocco, Bell drove a Dansport-prepared Ford Escort RS 1800 MKII and returned home in a credible third overall position. Earlier in the year, Bell and Challen tackled the annual Safari Rally –the Kenyan round of the FIA African Rally Championship- and deservedly won the Classic class with 14th finish at the wheel of the Datsun 260Z they will use at the Safari Classic.

Last year, Bell romped to second in both the Top Fry Rift 1000 Classic Rally in Kenya and Midnattssolsrallyt of Sweden with Haataja Pasi reading the notes in a Datsun 260Z where they defied the odds in class C4 of the latter.

South Africa-based Bell is now seeking to lay his hands on the coveted Safari Classic title that has proved elusive in the past few editions.

The closest he came to clinching the trophy was in 2011 when he second behind the late Swedish maestro Bjorn Waldegard.

Jonathan Somen is another seasoned campaigner eying the honours and he recently took his hardy Datsun machine to the high-altitude Eldoret Rally terrain in Kenya.

Somen clinched the KNRC Classic Car category title by returning a credible 13th finish against all expectations.

Granted, Eldoret is synonymous with world-beating middle distance runners from Kenya and Somen admitted to enjoying hair-raising thrills in the self-styled Home of Champions.

For Somen o, it was fantastic fun testing the MKII on the high-altitude.

Two-time Safari Classic champion Ian Duncan is yet to test his Ford Capri in a rally this season.

Duncan who first won his first Safari Classic in a Ford Mustang in 2009 will team up with regular navigator Amaar Slatch and preparations of his car at his Nairobi’s Hardy workshop in Karen are at an advanced stage.

Ahead of the Safari Classic, the 1994 Safari Rally winner is seeking to recapture the Kenya National Rally Championship title this season in a Mitsubishi Evolution 10 up against reigning titleholder- the former Finland and Britain champion Tapio Laukkanen.

This year’s Safari Classic event will start and end at Sarova Whitesands in the Kenyan North Coast city of Mombasa.

Rally enthusiasts from across the East African region will witness rivalries which have treated them to some exhilarating displays over the last few years.

-Report by KMSF

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