Besides farms, most rally drivers hail from Mt Kenya, specifically Meru, Embu and Nyeri counties
By Idris ‘Shoes’ Lule
The greatest Safari Rally drivers in Kenya are not those Nancy Boys you see vrooming around in blue Subarus. Most are not even from a city like Nairobi or Kisumu and Mombasa. The best rally drivers, the most successful, hail from Mt Kenya, specifically Meru, Embu and Nyeri counties.
Check out this list: Patrick Njiru, Eric Bengi, Phineas Kimathi, Tuta Mionki, Peter Mutuma, Hellen Shiri are all from Mt Kenya East as was Washington Nteere and son Ken Nteere. Nyeri gave us Maxine Wahome, the late Ben ‘Baba Shiru’ Muchemi, the late John Ngunjiri and the late engineer Kim Gatende whose coffee farm is today, Garden Estate, in King’ong’o.
But did you know the best rally drivers, besides hailing from Shags, are also either mechanics like Joginder Singh and Azar Anwar or large-scale farmers? Like Rory Green, now a retired driver, but is still a horticultural farmer in Limuru. Green won the Kenya National Rally Championship (KNRC) title twice in succession in 2001 and 2002.
And it’s not just in Kenya. Former World Rally Champion Petter Solberg learnt the ropes from their farm in Oslo. His son, Oliver Solberg, at 20 years, is the youngest driver in this year’s World Rally Championship in Kenya.
The reason farmers make better rallying drivers is that, instead of skating and riding bicycles, most start driving trucks on rough terrain giving them undue advantage and early head start. Most graduate into motocross with an even easier transition into rallying. Read on…
Shekhar Mehta, who began driving in his family’s sugar and tea plantations, became the master of winning in wet, slippery terrain
In their wheat farm in Nakuru County, ‘my father made us a small track to drive around’, says Carl Tundo
It’s a casual affair for farmers because they drive off-road on a daily basis
‘The first thing I ever drove at six years old was a Lorry,’ says Lee Rose. ‘That’s because my parents would not let me drive their cars’
Rallying also runs in the family as his father, John Rose started rallying in the 1967 Coca-Cola Rally in a Saab 99. The co-driver of Lee Rose was Peirs Daykin, an agricultural engineer in Timau and who won the navigators’ title twice. Lee Rose has since immigrated to South Africa.
Large-scale farmers have financial muscle, giving them an edge as the sport is expensive
In the final lap, the Safari Rally drivers are pretty region specific: Western Kenya produced rally drivers who can be counted on the fingers of one hand. The late Orie Rogo Manduli, the late Peter Shiyukah and Dr Noah Wekesa, but that is as far as it goes. Rift Valley had the late Jonathan Toroitich and Ibrahim Choge while Eastern has Nzioka Waita, but North Eastern and Coast have no one.
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