NAIROBI, Kenya- Former African Rally champion, Jaspreet ‘Jassi’ Singh Chatthe has been seeded first for the 2018 Safari Rally to be held in Nakuru this weekend.
The second leg of the African Rally Championships (ARC) that will be staged at the historic Delamere Farm and the ranges of Aberdare Hill will also double-up as the second round of Kenya National Rally Championships (KNRC) and a test event for Kenya’s readmission to the World Rally Championship next year.
Chatthe, who won the 2015 edition of ARC, tops a star-studded list of drivers who will contest the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) approved event.
The Kisumu based driver will be the first off the ramp according to the seeding entry released by the organisers on Tuesday.
The Team Kibos speedster will take off ahead of Kabras Sugar duo of Onkar Rai (Skoda R5), who won the opening round of the 2018 KNRC last month in Nakuru, and Baldev Charger (Mitsubishi Evolution X).
Chatthe, who is also the 2015 KNRC champion, will however miss the services of his regular navigator, Gurdeep Panesar, in the 66th edition of the Safari and will be navigated by Englishman, James Morgan.
Chatthe is the first Kenyan to win the ARC and KNRC titles in a single season where he had another experienced English navigator, Craig Thorlay, reading the pace notes.
Reigning ARC champion, Manvir Baryan, will be the fourth off the ramp. Local hero and four-time Safari champion, Carl ‘Flash’ Tundo, is seeded fifth ahead of Kenyan youngster, Karan Patel, and three-time Ugandan national champion, Jas Mangat, who is back on Kenyan soil to raffle feathers on his Mitsubishi R4 Evolution X.
Mangat is no stranger to the Safari contest having finished second behind Tundo in 2011.
Tundo, son to veteran Safari driver, Frank, is seeking to equal the five wins by the legend that is the late Shekhar Mehta.
All Tundo’s wins were achieved during the ARC era while Mehta’s were won in the age of the WRC when the Safari was billed as the ‘Toughest Rally in the World.’
Notable absentee, in the premier motoring event that revs-off on Friday at the Kenyatta International Conventional Centre in Nairobi, is Ian Duncan who has opted out of this year’s event to concentrate on the Top Fry Safari Classic coming up during Easter.
Duncan famously won the 1994 Safari when it was part of the international circuit in a works Toyota Celica GT4 that was christened the ‘Flying Sausage’, beating famous names such as former world champions; Juha Kankunnen, Carlos Sainz and Bjorn Waldergaa
Also out of this year’s Safari event is the KNRC defending champion and Flying Finn, Tapio Laukkanen, who is reportedly out of the Multiple Rally Team this term.
Kenyan OiLibya Racing crew of Farhaaz Khan and Keith are seeded eighth in their Group N Mitsubishi Evolution X followed by multiple Kenyan Formula 2 group champion, Jasmeet Chana.
Former Kenyan Two Wheel Drive champion, Eric Bengi (Subaru N12) is seeded 10th ahead of Piero Cannobio who is seeded 11th.
Pietro, who participated in the prestigious ARC season opener in the Bandama Rallye, Ivory Coast, last month, is lying third on the ARC log behind Gary Chaynes who is giving Safari a wide berth due to sponsorship issues.
Seeded 12th and 14th are Tanzanian duo of Randeep Singh and Ahmed Huwel. Randeep will drive an Evolution X.
Scrutineering for the weekend competition will be done outside Kasarani Stadium Gate 9 and 10 on Thursday.
Kenya is seeking to convince the FIA to return the Safari to the WRC roster next year for the first time since 2003 when it was pulled out of the international calendar over safety concerns and lack of Government financial guarantees.