The East African Safari Classic Rally ended in style after a dramatic chase between Porsche 911 cars of Austrian Kris Rosenberger and Swede Stiq Blomqvist in the last two of the 24-stage competition on Saturday.
Rosenberger and his navigator, Nicola Bleicher, drove persistently to record their first victory of the Safaricom East African Safari Classic Rally, driving a Porsche 911 car.
The Austrians, who led the event briefly at the start before drifting to second for most of the competition, beat former winner of the Classic Rally Blomqvist by one minute and 33.6 seconds at the end of the 10-day competition.
Female competitors made a good impression in the race, with Bleicher making history by becoming the first lady to finish the major event. Others included Julia Savesson, who guided Trey Lockey to the sixth place, Kate Hyes who helped her dad Joe Hayes to 12th place and Juliette Brinkerhoff who guided Renee Brinkerhoff to the 15th place.
All the ladies were driving Porsche 911 cars.
The competition’s clerk of course, Raju Chagger, said he was happy with the success of the rally.
“It’s been an amazing challenge and an adventure. This is the hardest thing I’ve done in rallying. It would not have been easy without the support and help of my fellow officials. I am exhausted but at the same time satisfied that we got through without any major accident,’’ Chaggar told Nation Sport.
“The Classic Rally is like all eight Kenya National Rally Championship events put together. I has been a wonderful experience, with a lot of help from the team of officials, led by my deputy Alfir Khan, my assistants Tinu Khan and Qayum Shiraz and a big family of officials. I am just very grateful.’’
Chaggar said his sad moment in the competition was losing an entire day due to poor weather. He said it was always painful but he would never have compromised on the safety of drivers. The weather made it hard to manage the event but proper planning saved the day.
Each day, the rally consisted of three competitive stages, and transport or liaison sections. The total distance was about 3,900 kilometres out of which 1,500km was competitive distance covering 24 stages in both Kenya and Tanzania.
On any given day of the rally, crews were expected to cover between 390 – 500km (combined distance of stage and transport).
Classic rallying tests endurance of the crews. Only 16 of the original 20 starters finished the grueling rally.
Tanzanian leg of the competition proved tough as one full day was cancelled due to rains and two of the leading drivers, Baldev Chager and Onkar Rai, lost their top place due to mechanical problems.
Rai was the best-placed local driver among the five Kenyans out of the 16 survivors of the rally. Tejveer Rai finished in the top 10 while Aslam Khan (11th), Baldev Chager (14th) and Ian Duncan (15th) finished in that order.
Telecommunications giant Safaricom was joined in by Vivo Energy Kenya, Whitesands Hotel, Bidco Africa and DT Dobie as the main sponsors of the rally.