ELDORET, Kenya, Dec 9 – Kenya’s Raaji Bharij put himself in the ‘driver’s seat’ for a first-ever East African Mini Classic rally title after an energy-sapping 405km drive from Nakuru through to Eldoret.
Driving a Ford Escort MK1, Bharij – navigated by Ravi Soni – went to bed at Eka Hotel, Eldoret with a 5:32 lead ahead of second-placed Piers Daykin in a Datsun 280Z.
In third place was another Kenyan pair, legendary Ian Duncan and Anthony Nielsen, who finished 7:32 behind Bharij – and two minutes behind Daykin.
It seemed to be a glorious day for Bharij, who was fourth off the ramp at Woodlands Hotel, Nakuru on Friday morning, in a flag off ceremony presided over by Nakuru deputy governor David Kones.
He was third fastest in the 90km stage 1 (Solai to Baringo), finishing 41 seconds behind the Dutch-Belgian duo of Remon Vos and Stephane Prevot.
Bharij, the 2016 Topfry 1000 Classic Rally champion, went a step further when he set the fastest time in the second stage (Endau-Kibingor), finishing 51 seconds faster than South African Geoff Bell in a Porsche 911.
-Defending champ Chager-
Defending champion Baldev Chager – preying on a third Mini Classic title- ended the day in fourth, 11:08 behind the leader, having recovered impressively to take top honour in the 78km stage 3 between Saos and Kipsaos.
Another top contender, Carl ‘Flash’ Tundo did not have the best of days after encountering mechanical challenges with his Triumph TR7.
“First section, we did not do too well. We got to around 80km and the front suspension arm broke. We didn’t hit anything so we had to spend around one hour changing it. The next section was nice…I think we were okay through that but we’ve lost the oil cooler so it’s getting a bit hot,” Tundo said.
The rally restarts at Rupa Mall in Eldoret on Saturday morning for another grueling drive before the ultimate battle on the twists and turns of Cherangany Hills in Trans Nzoia on Sunday.
Results after SS03 Saos-Kipsaos
1 Raaji Bharij/Ravi Soni (Ford Escort MK 1) 02:38:55.0
2 Piers Daykin /Tarik Malik (Datsun 280Z) 02:44:27.0 .
3 Ian Duncan/Anthony Nielsen (Datsun 280Z) 02:46:27.0
4 Remon Vos/Stephane Prevot (Porsche 911) 02:47:08.0
5 Baldev Chager/Gareth Dawe (Porsche 911) 02:50:03.0
6 Toby Wright/Douglas Rundgren
(Ford Escort MK 2) 02:56:51.0
7 Jonathan Somen/Richard Hechle
(Ford Escort MK 2) 03:01:31.0
8 Rommy Bhamra (Datsun 260Z) 03:04:50.0
9 Rajesh Maini /Devan Bhundia
(Ford Escort MK 1) 03:10:45.0
10 Farhaaz Khan/Arshad Khan (Porsche 911) 03:12:24.0