BY SAMSON ATEKA
Kisumu-based Jaspreet Singh Chatthe navigated by Gugu Panesar in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution has entered his name in the annals of Kenyan motorsports history after winning the 63rd edition of Safari Rally which ended yesterday in Meru.
Yesterday’s feat was Chatthe’s third career win after clinching ARC round of Tanzania and Nanyuki Rally last year. The 35-year-old Chatthe, who is being serviced by the MML Sport from the UK, achieved the feat after a fierce battle with Duncan in the last two stages around Kibirichia and Meru Forest.
Indeed Chatthe had his campaign effectively sewn up after two-day leader Tapio Laukkanen retired following a service error, which saw his crew fail to arrive at the Loldaiga remote service in time. The feat makes Chatthe the fourth “Flying Singh” to win the Safari title after the legendary Joginder Singh, Sarbi Rai and Baldev Chager, who won two back-to -back Safaris in 2013 and 2014.
Second overall was Ian Duncan, who on his maiden outing with a Liquid Telecom EVOX, lost the Safari by a mere 13 seconds. Duncan who has won the Safari once in 1994 when it counted towards the World rally Championship (WRC), failed to break the 21-year jinx and watched helplessly as the coveted title eluded him once again.
“I gave my all in the last two stages but Chatthe was quite quick,” said Duncan.
Carl “Flash” Tundo in a Proton Neo Satria S2000 settled for third position while Chager, who failed in his attempt to clinch a hat-trick of wins, was relegated to fourth place.
Fifth position went to Manvir Baryan in a Ford Fiesta R5 which is the newest make to make way onto Kenyan stages. The three-day event was characterised by muddy conditions which rekindled the olden days when Easter holidays drew together world beaters of the man and machine game. The most challenging aspect though for crews this time round were the long transport road sections which prompted organisers to introduce remote service zones.
After last service at Meru Teachers Training Institute, Duncan was 24 second on Chatthe’s tail. But Chatthe attacked the Meru Forest stage then backed off quite a bit on Kibirichia.
The last loop of the rally was reduced to a 30km two stage run following the cancellation of Kisima stage after some cars got stuck there.
Asked what it really took to win the Safari, Chatthe quipped: “We had a clean run all through and tried to remain cautious when conditions proved quite tough.”
Chatthe’s navigator, who is also a Kisumu resident was all smiles: “We have had a good drive together. We would like to thank MML Sport from UK for offering us good technical support and of course our local mechanic Mike Mwangi. The last two stage were good but again it was really tight with Ian. At Kabirichia stage, we took it kind of easy but attacked Meru Forest and we are happy to bring the car back in one piece,” said Gugu.
Courtesy of the-star.co.ke