Safari Rally great Bhardwaj passes on at 75

Tuesday December 10 2019

Bharat Bhardwaj, former Chairman of Safari Rally Limited, died on December 10, 2019 aged 75. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Safari Rally legend Bharat Bhardwaj has passed on.

The former Safari Rally navigator and chairman passed away on Tuesday at the Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi after a short illness. He was 75.

His son Kush Bhardwaj was the first to relay the news of the father’s death.

“My dad sadly passed away a couple of hours ago while at the Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi. He was such a gentleman and a real legend. We will miss him,” Kush told Nation Sport.

He navigated Joginder Singh to two Safari Rally finishes -- second in 1969 and third in 1966 -- driving a Volvo on both occasions.

Bhardwaj played a major role in the development of the sport after retiring from active competition.


Among his major achievements were winning Motor Sportsman of the Year in 1969 and being Kenya Hillclimb champion for six years in a row.

He was one of Kenya's finest bridge players and played in the Bridge Olympics on two occasions.


Bhardwaj was a respected Chairman of the Kenya Motorsport Foundation at the height of his rallying management career.

In 1967, he was awarded Role of Honour by the motorsport fraternity. Other winners of this award included Joginder and Vic Preston Junior.

Kush added: “My father brought the WRC (World Rally Championship) to Kenya in 1978 and was Chairman of the Safari Rally (Limited) for 10 years.

“He was the founder of the Kenya Motor Sports Club. He also built the Embakasi racing track. The Safari Rally was then sponsored by Marlboro towards which he helped gather a sponsorship deal of $1 million in 1978.”

Bhardwaj was in charge of his family business, Optica, which has been running for almost 60 years.

He worked voluntarily at the Kenyatta Hospital as an optometrist for 20 years. He then founded Optica.

Funeral announcements will be made at a later date.

Joginder Singh, known as the Flying Sikh of Kenya, passed away in 2013 in England where he had retired.