Tapio KNRC title party on hold as Rai wins in Kitengela
Former British and Finnish rally champion Tapio Laukkanen will have to wait for a decision from the Kenya Motor Sports Federation appeals court which will meet this week to decide whether or not he is the new national champion.
The ‘Flying Finn’ had seemingly added the Kenya National Rally Championship (KNRC) crown to his collection at penultimate KCB Kitengela Rally on Sunday but his champagne was put on ice when defending champion Jaspteet Chatthe lodged a protest against the former’s air flow box which he claims is illegal.
But in a strange turn of events, Tapio countered the move with a protest that Chatthe was towed out of the last section when his Mitsubishi Evolution developed mechanical problems in the latter stages of the rally.
Senior officials of the event confirmed that the verdict on the protests would be made this week.
As the drama between the title contenders unfolded, Rajbir Rai clocked 1:06:59 hours to emerge the winner in the Equator Motor Club organised event.
The son of legendary Sarbi Rai had his campaign effectively sewn up when the front runners Carl Tundo, Tapio and Chatthe suffered mechanical problems in the latter stages of the rally.
Manvir Baryan finished second as he repeated the same performance he had in Eldoret last month with Tapio navigated by compatriot Pasi Torma coming in fourth behind Chatthe.
Tapio, who is racing on a Kenyan competition licence, is seeking to enter his name in the annals of KNRC history books by being the first foreign driver to win the KNRC.
Tapio, who was chasing his fifth win of the season was bogged down by two early punctures, which dipped him to fourth.
Chatthe who had led the rally at halfway came in third overall after he stopped to fix a puncture on the last stage.
“We got two punctures in the first and third stages and lost quite some time. Of course, it was a hectic and scary day. We started the rally while trying to monitor Jassi’s progress,” Tapio remarked after checking into last service at AIC Girls Kajiado.
Ex-national champion Carl Tundo led the rally after the opening stage, but was time-barred as he tried to repair the damage under his car.
With Tundo crawling through the first loop, Chatthe took over the lead and had a good run but surrendered it on the very last dash.
“About 10km to the finish of the last stage we picked up a front right puncture and drove on it. But then we had a slight engine problem before the end of the stage,” his navigator Gurdeep Panesar revealed.
Eric Bengi emerged the winner in Two Wheel Drive class while Taiti Wachira claimed his career best 10th overall position.
The technical nature of the stages saw several competitors including Ian Duncan, Tash Tundo, and Baldev Chager fall by the wayside.
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