Although the Kenya National Rally Championship 2017 didn’t produce a winner at the culmination of the calendar year, Manvir Singh Baryan and Carl ‘Flash’ Tundo were definitely the men to beat if not the star attractions.
Baryan, of Multiple Racing Team, became the fifth Kenyan driver after legendary Joginder Singh and David Horsey (1980s), Don Smith (2016) and Jassi Chatthe (2015) to clinch the coveted FIA African Rally Championship (ARC).
Due to a number of concerns, some rounds of the KNRC had to be postponed or canceled.
Nanyuki Rally failed to take off due to farm invasions, which compelled organizers to postpone the event to next month since other available dates coincided with the torrential rains which would made the black cotton surface impassable. Nakuru, earlier set for August, was also postponed to earlier this month since it coincided with the general elections.
Tundo, with co-driver Tim Jessop and Richard Jackson of Britain with co-driver, Ryan Champion, were declared the joint winners of the 2017 Kenya Airways East Africa Classic Safari Rally in Mombasa, following a unanimous decision by the stewards. This was the first time the Safari had produced joint winners since its inception in 2003.
Jackson, in a Tuthill Porsche 911, proved beyond reasonable doubt that he is an expert on the road after nine days of the grueling battle between man and machine as hard-charging Kenyan driver Tundo also proved he was tough on the road as well.
Although it was Porsche’s third win on the world’s toughest historic rally, it was also the first victory for a Briton (and indeed a man from Yorkshire) in what has previously remained a preserve of hosts Kenyans and Swedes.
The breathtaking fight for the lead continued unabated on penultimate day as local hero Carl “Flash” Tundo motored to eclipse Briton Richard Jackson and compatriot Baldev ‘Boldy’ Chager to move back in front.
2017 was the first season that Baryan sat behind the wheel of a Skoda Fabia R5. He ran the KNRC for the Multiple Racing Team alongside British co-driver Drew Sturrock though with no prior intentions of taking part in the FIA African Rally Championship (ARC) 2017.
Manvir’s plan to go for the ARC title was an afterthought as the youngster together with some top drivers incurred costly penalties for wrong- slotting on Safari.
But on winning the Rally of Tanzania which was followed by three other wins on the Rwanda Mountain Gorilla rally, the Pearl of Africa Uganda Rally 2017 and the Zambia Motor Rally, there was no stopping a man who also won the KNRC season opener in Mombasa and the Fly 540 RSC Rally.
After he drew the first blood at sea level, Manvir was by and large one of the top contenders for the 2017/KNRC but lost out when he proceeded to Europe to collect his ARC Trophy.
But it wasn’t all to be plain sailing for Baryan. He did not compete in the opening round of the African Rally Championship, the Rallye Bandama ofCôte d’Ivoire. His next event was the Safari Rally, a Kenyan event, which was the second round of both the ARC and KNRC series, where he would end up in ninth place overall.
Kenya’s Safari Rally (formerly a World Rally Championship) round had just returned to the Africa event after a two years hiatus. Having sat out of the third round of the ARC, which was the York Rally in South Africa, Baryan was back for the Pearl of Africa Uganda Rally. He delivered a dominant performance winning eight of the ten special stages and leading from start to finish. The eventual margin of victory was a huge 9 minutes and 51 seconds. Baryan made history, because it was the first ever Skoda win in the ARC.