Did you know that Kabras Sugar Racing, Menengai Lemon and Top Fry teams have sublimely dominated the Kenya National Rally Championship (KNRC) Premier Class over the past few years?
Their “fast and furious” cockpit ability has not only captivated the rally-sport in the country, but treated regional motorsport fans to some exhilarating displays of Rallying artistry.
A perfect example was the season- opening KCB Nakuru Rally (on January 20 2021) at the expansive Soysambu Conservancy where the three-car Kabras outfit led by Baldev Chager and Rai siblings Tejveer and Onkar racked up their unprecedented podium clean-sweep as a team in 10 years.
After Nakuru, Kabras drivers occupy the first three spots on the KNRC log with Chager on the summit with 33points followed by Tejveer 25 and Onkar on 23.
In Nakuru, Chager totally bossed it to doggedly resume his title hunt with zest and vigor.
“Flying Singh”, or “Boldy” as he is better known in racing circles, was overly excited with the 1-2-3 finish for Kabras team.
“It’s the first time in 10 years that we have taken a clean-sweep as a team. We are really proud of it, I mean, it’s quite a good feeling. We are looking forward to improving on our performance in the next event in Machakos County,” Chager said.
Driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 10- R4 and navigated by Ravi Soni ,Chager also gained 3 bonus Championship points in Nakuru after winning the power stage which was a repeat run of Soysambu (CS7).
He clocked 1;29.36 hours to beat stablemate Tejveer by a 1.38 minutes margin.
In winning the Rift Valley Motor Sport Club (RVMSC) organised round, Chager completed back to back Nakuru Rally titles after his victory in Nyahururu last year as hard-charging a birthday boy.
Nyahururu Rally 2020 was the last event before Covid-19 restrictions culminated into the cancellation of the rest of the season last year.
In Nakuru, Chager won 4 out of 7 stages to take an early lead on the KCB KNRC log.
Onkar won 2 stages and his elder brother Tej 1stage.
It was a bad day at the office though for immediate former Champion ‘Flash” Tundo in a Top Fry Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 10 on his home event where he failed to win a stage in the seven-section event. The give times Safari winner retired with a broken left rear arm.
After CS6, competitors started the last stage – CS7 -which also served as the Power Stage where the fastest competitor gained an additional 3 championship points!
Rai siblings Tejveer and Onkar in identical VW Polo R5 sealed the podium dash.
The result was a repeat of Nyahururu Rally (last year’s Nakuru edition) where both Chager and Tejveer occupied the first two positions.
The three teams (Kabras, Menengai and Top Fry) sponsored by sister companies will be targeting a hat-trick of titles as they embark on the KCB Machakos Rally campaign.
Meanwhile, the five drivers are set to enhance their experience for the three teams in 2021 – Onkar and Tejveer – all vying for glory in their VW Polo R5, as R4 Evolution 10 aces “Flash” Tundo, Chager and Eric Bengi also into it to up their ante.
Bengi, who will be entering a Menengai Lemon sponsored ex Tejveer Rai Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 10 R4 car, is enthusiastic about Machakos Rally.
Bengi will be the first one off the ramp in Machakos; and here’s what he had to say about Machakos: “We are happy rallying is now back with consistency. Nakuru event was a good season opener and the coming weekend is Machakos where we will be doing the road sweeping duty. I particularly love the open savannah grassland at the expansive Lisa Farm. it is an ideal location to hold a rally. Of course, there are many lessons we have learned from Nakuru and I can promise you it will not be your ordinary Sunday drive- ee you Sunday.”
WRC Safari Rally return
The 2021 season will also be an exciting one for Kenyan teams given WRC Safari Rally return to Kenya.
In June, Kenyans will savor the opportunity to embark on their toughest campaign at the pinnacle of international rally when the World Rally Championship returns to Kenya after a 19 year hiatus.
Kenyans will hope to mount a challenge for WRC with Chager, Ian Duncan and Tundo being the only ines to have tasted global status back in the day before Kenya lost the status in 2002.
In Machakos Rally, Chager will continue his potent partnership with Ravi Soni.
Onkar Rai will be sitting with British navigator Drew Sturrock (formerly with Manvir Baryan). Tejveer Rai (Kabras) will be in the company of Gareth Dawe while Bengi will have his pace notes called by Peter Mutuma. Flash will be with his longstanding navigator Tim Jessop.
High-flying VW Polo R5s
R5 VW Polos of the Rai have since demonstrated competitiveness across a wide variety of surfaces in 2020 and 2021, with crews taking podiums and wins on gravel. With the slate once again wiped clean, the ‘Kabras speed merchants’ are ready to continue their momentum into this week’s KCB Machakos Rally as they seeks to claim unprecedented back to back hat-trick of podium clean sweep in the Kenya Motor Sports Club (KMSC) organised round.
Kabras drivers know that they will need to be challenging for wins and podiums at every round while also redoubling efforts to maintain their competitive package, if they are to defend their title.
Tundo- in TopFry livery -will not be a pushover though. After retirement on his home Nakuru event, he will be going for the jugular in Machakos.
Chager says: “When we started 2021, the cars had been ready for a while so we did a test session to get back in the driving seat and to shake down the cars. So we are just eager to get behind the wheel and see how rusty we may have become over the covid period. After a few kilometres we were ready to go and results in Nakuru County spoke volumes about team’s capabilities. We just need to keep going and work as hard as we did in previous seasons. We will have to fight for wins at every event, because we are facing fierce competition from other teams. Onkar and Tejveer have been impressive so far in their identical R5 cars.”
Kabras’ approach is to always find the maximum in themselves and the cars as they have experience of the 3 cars already.
Back into the groove
It has not easy for any driver to get into the rhythm after Covid happened last year, with the season being cancelled after only 2 rallies.
But Chager ensured the Kabras’ title defence got off to the perfect start in 2021 with victory in Nakuru. He wants to do everything he can for the drivers’ title to remain in the Kabras stable.
Chager is chasing back to back titles after being crowned the KNRC champion for the umpteenth time in 2019.
What’s more, Kabras plans to win more rallies and to take maximum points for the drivers’ and co-drivers’ championship in all of their rounds of KNRC this season.
KNRC STANDINGS AFTER ROUND 1-NAKURU RALLY
1 Baldev Chager (Kabras Sugar Racing) 33
2 Tejveer Rai (Kabras Sugar Racing) 25
3 Onkar Rai (Kabras Sugar Racing) 23
4 Ian Duncan (Ian Duncan Rallying)19
5 Eric Bengi (Menengai Lemon) 17
6 Paras Pandya (Synergy Gases) 15
7 Nikhil Sachania (Filmico Racing) 13
8 Jasmeet Chana (CRS/Jaguar Petroleum) 11
9 Ghalib Hajee 9
10 Evans Kavisi 7
11 Daren Miranda 5
12 Edward Maina 4
13 Rajiv Ruparelia 3
1 Ravi Soni 33
2 Gareth Dawe 25
3 Drew Sturrock 23
4 Anthony Nielsen 19
5 Peter Mutuma 17
6 Falgun Bhojak 15
7 Deep Patel 13
8 Ravi Chana 11
9 Sinder Suddle 9
10 Absolom Aswani 7
11 Wayne Fernandes 5
12 John Ngugi 4
13 Enoch Olinga 3