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Motorsport musings

July 2013 - My first Kenyan rally win!

anwar pandyaIronically my first rally win in Kenya did not come alongside Raaji but rather at a training rally in Nairobi. My good friend Anwar Pandya invited me to sit alongside him in a RVMSC training rally. Although he had just taken delivery of a brand new Prodrive Subaru N14 we would be using his tried and trusted Prodrive Subaru N10 as this event was just one week before the KCB Nyeri Rally and we did not want to risk damaging the new car.

After meeting at Anwars house early on a Saturday morning we drove through town to Athi where the training rally was going to be. There was actually some impressive machinery out – the ex Baldev Chager N14 was entered, along with some rapid Group S (open class) Imprezas and a couple of Evo 9's. The pressure was really on us when Anwar and myself were seeded at Car 1 for the 8 stage rally.

The opening super special was thick glutinous mud and we discovered shortly before the start that the handbrake wasn't working…. Oh joy! Not only that but, as it was a training rally, there was no recce and we were handed a set of rather random looking organisers notes…. Hmmmmm!

anwar pandyaWe arrived at the start of stage one and tried to match the stage to the notes…. The notes began with a 50 FR 100 HPL HPR…. In front of us was more of a 150 ML 50 SR… I called the controller over and queried it. He told me that the organisers notes were aimed at meeting the requirements of a multitude of talents and so were more of a reference! Hmmmm again! Oh well, we were here for a laugh and decided to suck it and see. 5,4,3,2,1 Go and we were off. Wow, it was slippery, and the Subaru was understeering everywhere. The notes really did not make any sense and after 5 corners we arrived at tape crossing the road! That was the last straw! I was being patient as some of the organisers were first time officials but this was silly. I insisted we go back to the start and speak to the Clerk of Course.

So, for the second time in three rallies, I was involved in stopping a stage! We summons the Clerk of Course over and explained the situation. She then jumped in a 4x4 and went out to have a look. And also got lost! It was eventually discovered that the start control was in the wrong place and that the distances were a "bit iffy"! Now though, we at least knew where to go and set off once more! Lots of understeer and a few moments when we were sliding at some speed towards trees, normally on my side of the car! But we had a few giggles and eventually finished the stage!

anwar pandyaOff to Stage 2 which looked to be a decent stage according to the notes. The first page of notes consisted mainly of Keep Left of Waterhole, Keep right of waterhole, Max waterhole etc with a Do Not Miss turn Square Right about 2km from the start. Simple really! Hmmm, the road ahead was under water in most places and the notes were completely irrelevant. So, as we set off, I took stock of the time… calculated a generous 60 kp/h for us and our almost permanently sideways Subaru and a minute and a half from the stage start we slowed down and began looking for the junction. Eventually after 4 minutes we still hadn't seen any junction and so, reluctantly, I told Anwar to turn around and drive the wrong way down the route as sensibly as possible. A few minutes later we passed Car 2. He stopped to ask what was going on, we told him we were lost and let him carry on. Eventually we found a small goat path cut through a bank and I told Anwar to take it…. Despite us being 8 minutes into the rally there were no signs of tyre tracks in front of us and thus we were still first on the road!

The notes made no sense and so I skipped to all the major junctions and guided Anwar by sight, egging him on in the fast bits! Due to the slippery nature of the roads we spent more time sideways somewhere near the road, but our tyres had infrequent contact with the actually rally stage! And we demolished quite a few small bushes as the event turned into more of a rally raid than anything else!

anwar pandyaIt was a sense of relief when we found the flying finish of stage two and both Anwar and I were full of praise for each other. He had handled the "interesting" conditions well and was pleased with my codriving skills! Stage 3 saw us loose total track on the route and eventually I spied an instruction half way down a page saying T left at power line. About 1km in the distance I could see a power line and told Anwar to head straight for the landmark. Off we went, through the bush at full speed, had a brilliant pendulum and BIG drift onto…. The road, complete with a 1 foot long piece of tape indicating we were back on route! Shortly afterwards we arrived at the flying finish, which was very close to the start! When we chatted to the controller he told us only 3 cars had started the stage!

The start control of the fourth stage had me chuckling. Thankfully it was being manned by some good friends of mine, but none of them had a watch! And so they were using the clock on their cell phone! Stage 4 was pretty much the same layout as a test stage we had put together for Anwar the previous week and it was with a fair amount of glee we headed off into the final stage before first service. We had some massive slides going on as it had begun raining as the stage began! In fact at one point we ran a bit wide and really began to bog down in the slushy mud… but thankfully the all wheel drive which has made Subaru so successful in rallying, came to our aid and we carried on to record yet another stage win!

anwar pandyaAfter a routine service and a bite to eat, it was time for our car to enter the mid rally holding point. Our service had been twenty minutes long and as I drove the rally car into parc ferme it occurred to me…. There were no other rally cars in service!!! Eventually cars began arriving from all directions. Some tackled the stage, but got lost and cut across the plains, arriving at the finish control from the wrong direction! Others just gave up and didn't even attempt the fourth stage! Eventually the organisers decided to scrap the repeat of the three longer stages and so we just had a repeat of the short and pretty pointless super special stage. Again we had a terrible time in there and were beaten by some 12 seconds by Anthony Tibo in his open class Subaru. This did not really matter in the grand scheme of things because our winning margin was eventually something close to half an hour!

It might not have been a glorious win and the margin would probably have been even greater if we had used a Rally Raid Landrover, but a win is a win and goes nicely with my 2nd place as a driver and my trio of third position awards as a codriver!