NAIVASHA, Kenya, Apr 1 – Kenya’s current top driver Karan Patel toped the pole at the ARC Equator Rally on Friday as Cabinet Secretary for Sports Amina Mohamed flagged off the three-day event.
Drivers that include the ARC leader Zambian Leroy Gomes, enjoyed their first opportunity to sample the classic Safari roads at blistering pace in Loldia.
Karan, the Kenya National Rally Championship (KNRC) leader beat Uganda’s Amaanraj Rai by 12.9 seconds through the 5.4km Loldia speed test which overlooks Lake Naivasha in the Great Rift Valley.
Karan later chose to start third on the road behind sweeper Jasmeet Chana and Junior WRC driver McRae Kimathi.
Gomes and his wife Urshlla came home third but chose to start fifth behind the event’s speedsters.
The stage which is representative of the energy-sapping Kenyan terrain saw top crews run Free Practice twice before heading to the qualifying stage.
Only the fastest five drivers from the Qualifying Stage – rather than the previous 15 –are allowed to take part in the selection of starting positions.
Non ARC drivers also used the 3pm Shakedown at Loldia to warm up their engines prior to subsequent Ceremonial Start which was presided over by Sport CS Amina Mohammed at Naivasha’s KWS Institute.
“So far it’s been good. We ran fastest through the Qualifying Stage and chose to start third. We are overly excited. The stages are new, another Equator Rally, so hopefully there is a good chance to win this event,” Karan said.
“We are a bit upset though that we don’t have Boldy (Chager) and Carl (Tundo) here. We really wish they were here. So far the rally has just started, still early days, it’s like a mini Safari. The weather so far is dry. We enjoy driving in dry conditions.”
Amaanraj on his part said: “It was a good start. We have not rallied for four months. So, it was a good way to shake off the rust. Tomorrow is the main one. We just wanted to make a position and see how tomorrow goes. This is just a teaser, so we chose to start fourth on the road after the Qualifying Stage.”
Commenting on the grueling Kenyan experience, Zambian Champion Gomes said: “Back home we are used to smoother and faster stages. But here in Kenya it’s a mix of everything. When I was in Ivory Coast, I was talking of how tough the West African fixture is; and I forgot what Kenya was all about. Kenya is definitely the toughest place to rally.”
START ORDER AFTER QUALIFYING STAGE
1. Jasmeet Chana
2. McRae Kimathi
3. Karan Patel
4. Amaanraj Rai (Uganda)
5. Leroy Gomes (Zambia)
QUALIFYING STAGE TIMES-LOLDIA 5.4KM
1.Karan Patel 4.23.0
2. Amaanraj Rai (UG)4.35.9
3. Leroy Gomes (ZAM) 4.40.6
4. McRae Kimathi 4.58.0
5. Jasmeet Chana 4.58.0
6. Aakif Virani 5.02.1
7. Jeremy Wahome 5.03.1
8. Giancarlo Davite (RWA) 5.06.1
9. Paras Pandya 5.12.9
10. Ian Duncan 5.13.1