BY SAMSON ATEKA
Kisumu-based Jaspreet Singh Chatthe navigated by Craig Thorley in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 10 RC2 car won the FIA African Rally Championship (ARC) section in the Sasol Rally South Africa to take the continental series lead jointly with defending Champion Gary Chaynes of Ivory Coast.
This comes barely two weeks after winning the 63rd KCB Safari Rally in Meru.
After two rounds in Ivory Coast and South Africa, Chaynes and Chatthe are the joint leaders on 25 points. Former Africa champion Jassy Singh of Zambia and his brother Muna Singh Jnr are lying third and fourth on 18 and 15 points respectively. In the rally, Chatthe and Craig Thorley who took the ARC honours, beat Zambians Jassy Singh and Sajid Khan (Subaru Impreza) by just under 3 minutes.
Chaynes, who didn’t participate in the South Africa round held in Mpumalanga province took an early lead in March after winning his home-based Rallye Bandama.
Chatthe, who had led in the continental series prior to the prestigious Mountain Gorillla Rwanda Rally last year also jointly with Chaynes, is seeking to end Kenya’s long wait since Mombasa-based David Horsey last won the African title in a Peugeot in early 1980s. Legendary Shekhar Mehta is the only other Kenyan driver alongside Horsey to have laid his hands on the ARC title which has over the years remained a preserve of Zambian drivers.
Meanwhile, Chatthe will take part in the second round of the Kenya National Rally Championship-the KCB KMSC Rally in Kajiado and Konza’s Lisa Farm on May 2.
He will nonetheless return to the continental arena next month during the Zambia International Rally which makes up the third round of the ARC series.
Chatthe overcame misty and wet weather conditions and the unpredictable and very slippery gravel roads of the Lowveld forests to finish sixth overall thus winning the ARC category in the 24th edition of the Sasol Rally in emphatic fashion. The Ford Performance pair of Mark Cronje and Robin Houghton in a Ford Fiesta S2000 won the event outright.
At the overnight stop Cronje and Houghton, also winners in 2012 and 2013, led the Castrol Team Toyota Yaris of Leeroy Poulter and Elvéne Coetzee by 25.5 seconds, and they stretched this to 44.4 seconds by the second last stage of the rally. The Toyota challenge then faltered with Poulter/Coetzee’s car losing four-wheel drive, while Giniel de Villiers/Carolyn Swan, in a comfortable third position in their Castrol Toyota Yaris, suffered engine failure at high speed.
This gifted Gugu Zulu and Pierre Arries (Volkswagen Polo) an unexpected podium position, to the elation of both the Volkswagen racing team and the event sponsors.
At the checkered flag Cronje/Houghton were a comfortable 3 minutes 38 seconds ahead of the crippled Yaris of Poulter/Coetzee, with Zulu/Arries another 3:29.3 adrift. “It was the most difficult Sasol Rally I have ever done,” Cronje said afterwards. “The conditions were treacherous, and while it was already bad on the first day, it was even worse today because of the inconsistent road surfaces.”
On the podium Cronje thanked his co-driver for his contribution to their win and dedicated the victory to Robin’s brother Michael who recently passed away.
The high attrition rate promoted Namibians Wilro Dippenaar and Kes Naidoo (North City Panel Beaters Toyota Auris) to fourth position overall, 58 seconds behind the VW crew, and also to a class win in NRC4.
Courtesy of the-star.co.ke