Speedstar Bengi believes Safari Rally return will boost local talent

Tuesday, July 21st, 2020 00:00 |
Eric Bengi and Tuta Mionki in a Subaru Impreza N12 during a apast rally. Photo/PD/WEBSTER NYANDIKA

Rally driver Eric Bengi believes the much-awaited comeback of the Safari Rally to the World Rally Championship calendar is a perfect opportunity to re-ignite local talent.

Kenya National Rally Championship (KNRC) Premier Class driver believes racing against the big boys of WRC will trigger Kenyan drivers to compete in top levels.

The former KNRC Two Wheel, Division One and Group N Champion said: “I know for sure that the WRC drivers will white wash us but it will be a learning lesson to come back, reset and reflect on what makes them tick and how differently they do their thing.

“I am sure we’ll all be eager to see what it is that we can learn to become better motorsport people.

It will make us push to the limit, so thrills and spills are guaranteed. So give the Safari three to four years and you will actually see competition from this country.

“Last year we went out as a team to Zambia to compete in the ARC event.

This year we had big intentions to take part in a few East African Rally Championship events but this was disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Bengi will be one of the many drivers from the current crop of KNRC speedsters to debut in the iconic WRC Safari Rally which will be held next year.

From the current group of KNRC drivers, only reigning Kenya and Safari Champion Baldev Chager, Ian Duncan and Carl ‘Flash” Tundo have graced the WRC Safari Rally.

Ian Duncan was the last Kenyan driver to lay his hands on a WRC Safari title when he won the 42nd Trust Bank Safari Rally in 1994.

Duncan, Mike Kirkland, Vic Preston Senior, Vic Preston Junior, Shekhar Mehta, Joginder Singh, Patrick Njiru, Phineas Kimathi and Jonathan Toroitch were among the locals who featured prominently back in the Safari Rally day.

After an 18-year hiatus, Safari was granted permission to return to the WRC calendar but the event was pushed to next year due to the global outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Safari is a good thing to happen. Let me just say that in Africa, Kenya ranks amongst countries with the best drivers among them Manvir (Baryan) who has won the African Championship three years in a row.

Manvir traversed the continent and beat all and sundry hands down. To bring the Safari back to WRC is definitely great, thanks to the dedicated WRC Safari Project team led by CEO Phineas Kimathi” added Bengi, who insists there will be a great deal of knowledge transfer.

“Kenya is grateful for the WRC opportunity. Fans around the region will have the opportunity to savour the intensity of WRC machines last seen here in 2002. 

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