JOHANNESBURG, South Africa- Manvir Baryan became the first Kenyan driver to win the Rally of South Africa (dubbed the York Rally) when he upset the competition in Mpumalanga against all expectations.
The reigning African Rally Champion (ARC) navigated by British co-driver, Drew Sturrock powered his Skoda Fabia R5 to eight out of 15 stage wins to become the first ever non South African to win the event formerly known as Sasol Rally.
“This has been the most challenging event of all the ARC rounds we have covered. The roads were so technical, tricky and wet.
“The points put us in a great position to think about defending our title. It might be early to say we stand a chance, but we shall see what comes next,” Baryan told Kawowo Sport.
In winning the South African round of the FIa ARC, Manvir joins the growing list of legendary champions who include Serei Very Der Merwe, Jan Habig, Johnny Gemmel, Enzo Kuun, Mark Cronje, Leroy Poulter and last year’s winners Japie Van Nielerk.
The aforementioned drivers have dominated the Rally of of South Africa in its 26 years of existence.
Nevertheless, Manvir, who is also the 2017 Kenyan Motorsport Personality of the Year, produced a shocking victory in an event previously dominated by VW Polos and Golfs, Ford Fiestas and Toyotas.
When the Kenyan made his debut in South Africa on Friday, little did the continental racing fraternity know that he would indeed call the shots in an event which has remained a preserve of local drivers.
Manvir won stages 2, 3, 5, 10, 12, 13, 14 and 15 besides returning the second fastest time in stage 8 and third fastest on SS9 and SS11 and SS 7 which was incidentally won by East African Safari Classic Rally clerk of the course Richard Leeke.
Leeke has also been the FIA observer and steward of the ARC Safari for many years.
The York Rally victory puts Baryan level on points with Ivory Coast’s Gary Chaynes and compatriot Carl Tundo on the ARC leader board with 25 points.
Manvir was sixth fastest through stage one on Friday, but it was not until the FIA African Rally Championship round of South Africa wore on that the Kenyan youngster sparked into life.
Manvir skipped the opening round of the ARC (Rallye Bandama of Ivory Coast) in Ivory Coast and retired in the Kenyan round which is the the prestigious Safari Rally.
From the second stage down south, Manvir savored a big battle with Theuns Joubert of South Africa prior to the latter’s exit on stage 13.
Manvir’s navigator (Sturrock) was all smiles and this is what he had to say after the memorable win:
“I’m delighted to have won the York Rally 2018 in South Africa. It’s been a long time since I won a rally in SA and have missed the people, the country and the competition so much.
“It has been such a wonderful weekend and I hope we return to defend the title next year. Well done to the organisers and teams for putting on such a great event. Manvir drove like a champ again. Back out in a few weeks in Kenya, thank you all for your support and well wishes!”
South Africa’s Guy Botterril cashed on countryman Theuns Joubert’s misfortunes to move up to second overall.
Despite keeping the competition tight for the top position, Joubert saw his charge stymied in stage 13 with mechanical problems to his Toyota Auris.
Only 17 of the 26 crews survived the demanding York Rally that featured a night stage at Sabie and went through Nelspruit and White River.