Kabras Rally Team's performance in the WRC promises a solid future in the country’s rallying scene particularly now that Kenya has secured the rights to sponsor the WRC Safari Rally continuously for the next five years.
After a 19-year absence, Kenya hosted the 2021 World Rally Championship (WRC) Safari Rally and established itself among the top-tier countries with the Kabras Rally Team led by Onkar Rai putting on a spectacular display.
The championship, in the end, was won by the French driver Sébastien Ogier, driving a Toyota Yaris. But Onkar Rai was the best-placed local driver finishing in the seventh position. He capped off the race by winning the WRC3 race after the grueling four-day competition.
Onkar, who is the CEO of Menengai Oil Refineries, set a remarkable pace from the get-go in a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5. After edging out a healthy lead during the second day of the Safari Rally’s punishing leg, Onkar secured his position with a pair of fastest stage times on the penultimate day.
Navigated by Drew Sturrock, Onkar recorded a time of 3:47:37.7 to clinch his first position in the WRC3. He was followed closely by another local, Karan Patel in a Ford Fiesta who recorded a time of 3:51:41.7.
Onkar’s sizzling performance in the rally is a testimony to our nation’s role in spurring growth in the African rallying scene. The first two wins in WRC3 were further cemented by five-time Safari Rally champion, Carl Flash Tundo navigated by Timothy Jessop, who closed the podium in 3:54:52.0 with a Polo GTI.
Carl Tundo, who was sponsored by Kabras through Menengai, had an eventful rally, to say the least. He began as a favorite but dropped over 7 minutes when his rally car crashed into a tree in SS4. He then managed to secure multiple stage wins and was eventually relieved to salvage a podium.
Others in the Kabras Rally Team were Onkar Rai’s younger brother, Tajveer Rai-He, and Baldev Chager. Tajveer, a former three-time Nakuru rally driver exuded confidence coming into the WRC and performed well until he crashed out after his R5 VW Polo nose-dived. He is recuperating well.
Baldev Chager with his co-driver Soni Ravi recorded a time of 4:45:47.1 to finish at position 18 in a Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X. He was, however, preceded by Eric Bengi navigated by Peter Mutuma who recorded a time of 4:28:00.5 in a Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X to finish at position 15 in the overall championship. Eric Bengi, like Carl Tundo, was sponsored by Kabras through Menengai.
The performance of these local drivers evidently shows that Kenya has some talent. The tough terrain was unforgiving but it only served to be a measure of how Kenya would stack up against the world’s best.
Kenya’s Onkar had initially pointed out that the race would be a tough test for all drivers. He noted that the drive was very difficult – as he referred to his injured brother – but was glad to win the WRC3.
“My favorite drivers are Sébastien Ogier, Takamoto Katsuta, and Elfyn Evans and to finish ahead of Elfyn is a dream come true. It was a difficult event, but we stayed focused and made it through,” he said.
“It is a dream come true… The difference between the top cars and our cars is a big difference but all the same, we hope to show the international drivers that Kenya has some talent and maybe one day, one of our boys will get a chance to drive the big cars,” Onkar had previously stated in a previous interview.
The Kabras Rally Team, together with the veterans Ian Duncan and Carl Tundo, formed the Kenyan team. But, Chager, Tundo, and Duncan are the only ones who have previously competed against the best in the WRC. The 2021 WRC was Chager’s eighth year under the under Kabras Sugar Racing sponsorship and in over two decades since his last WRC in 1998.
The company, along with Menengai Lemon and Top Fry Racing teams have sublimely dominated the Kenya National Rally Championship (KNRC) Premier Class over the past few years. Their win in the WRC promises a solid future in the country’s rallying scene particularly now that Kenya has secured the rights to sponsor the WRC continuously for the next five years.
Kabras plans to win more rallies and to take maximum points for the drivers’ and co-drivers championships in all of their rounds of the subsequent WRCs as well as the Kenya National Rally Championship (KNRC) in the upcoming seasons.