Testing waters

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Jaspreet Singh Chatthe and Gugu Panesar in Mitsubishi EVOX.

Local and foreign competitors are taking full advantage of two days of permitted reconnaissance to familiarize themselves with the challenging route of nine competitive stages ahead at next week’s Safari Rally. The event will mark Round Two of the FIA African Rally Championship.

A total of 50 cars and drivers from Finland and across Africa will tackle a series of gravel stages in the Great Rift Valley areas around Aberdare Hills Golf Resort in Naivasha, Elementaita and Gicheha among other places. They will also compete over some shorter and longer stages calculated to take rallying to a wider Kenyan audience in Nakuru and its environs during Saturday’s Leg Two.

There will be three designated spectator viewing points at Jamhuri Park, Aberdare Hills and Elemntaita, where fans can catch action.

Safari has attracted 15 ARC registered drivers including the Singh siblings of Zambia, Muna Junior and Jassy, Jas Mangat, Yasin Nasser and Hassan Alwi from Uganda; Burundian speed merchant Valery Bukera and three Kenyans Jassi Chatthe, Jonathan Somen and Don Smith.

One notable foreign driver missing from the official entry list is the 2014 ARC champion and Ivory Coast speedster Gary Chaynes, who didn’t hand in his entry after competing in the season opening Rallye Bandama back home. Meanwhile, reconnaissance plans have been finalised. According to a bulletin released by the clerk of the course Gurvir Bhabra, reconnaissance of the competitive stages is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday from 6am till 6pm.

“Due to the restrictions laid on by some of the landowners owing to the severe drought in the region, they will only allow two days for recce on Wednesday and Thursday as per the revised programme,” said Gurvir. Unlike previous years when foreign and local competitors recced on separate occasions, all teams will recce at the same time.

The Safari will be flagged off from KICC on March 17 after which cars will tackle a super special stage at Jamhuri Park before proceeding to Ngong, Suswa, Kedong, Aberdare Hills and Elementaita. The cars will then pull into the overnight parc ferme at Bufallo Mall. Cars will restart at Bufallo Mall on March 18 with a repeat run of Aberdare Hills, then onwards to the long Elementaita stage, Ndundori near Lanet, Gicheha Farm past Nakuru and finish at Afraha Stadium.

Logistically, crews will experience a taste of the old type Safari across service parks located at Bufallo Mall, Suswa, Lanet/Ndundori Road and Albiza off Nakuru- Eldoret highway.

Flying Finn Tapio Laukkanen will be making his third start of the Safari which he is yet to win after coming so close in the 2015 edition in Meru. Jassy Singh of Zambia returns to the Safari for the second time after his debut in 2013, the same year he was crowned the African champion.

“It’s great to be back in Kenya and rallying again on the world famous event,” said Jassy, who returns to the ARC series with compatriot Said Khan.

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