- Maxine Wahome became the first woman to win a major WRC Category in 28 years
- Wahome was driving a Ford Fiesta Rally 3 Car for the first time
- She was racing under the FIA Rally Star program
Maxine Wahome made rally history on Sunday, becoming the first woman to win a major World rally Championship Category after she won the WRC3 title at the Safari Rally in Naivasha.
Wahome, a 26-year old kindergarten teacher by profession, produced five error-free stages to head the all-Ford Fiesta Rally3 field by 25min 27sec over second-placed Jeremy Wahome.
The last woman to win a major WRC class was Isolde Holdereid in the Group N Cup in 1994.
FIA Junior WRC regular Mcrae Kimathi rounded out the all-Kenyan podium over 10 minutes behind at the end of a brutal event which forced every driver into retirement at least once.
Wahome’s winning performance was made all the more impressive by the fact she had never driven the Fiesta car on gravel prior to the start.
“My goal was just to learn the car and day by day improve my speed. Wednesday was my first time in the car – I normally drive a Subaru Impreza N12. The only testing I got with the car was on Tarmac, which is completely different to the Safari,” an excited Maxine told WRC at the end of the Rally.
“The mission today was to make it through the stages slow and steady to get it to the finish and learn more about the car. The gap was already big,” she added.
Overcoming engine trouble
Wahome’s rally very nearly unraveled on Friday evening when she was sidelined by an engine control unit fault on the final test, but the youngster was able to restart on Saturday and reclaimed top spot as her rivals came unstuck.
Hamza Anwar threatened to break her stride and clawed back over two and a half minutes on Sunday morning, but he retired with two stages remaining.
Wahome, who was sponsored by Safaricom and Quickmart had hoped to finish the rally strongly after struggling with her Subaru Impreza last year. She attained her target, a massive achievement for the only female driver in the top categories.
She was imperious and finished 16th overall out of 42 drivers who started the Rally. Twenty one of them finished.
Singh rai top placed Kenyan driver
Meanwhile, Singh Rai was the top placed Kenyan at the Safari after finishing 12th overall in the WRC2 Category. Driving a Skoda Fabia, Singh clocked a cumulative time of 4:45:16.4. Carl ‘Flash’ Tundo, navigated by Tim Jessop finished 13th as the second best placed Kenyan with Maxine the third best placed Kenyan driver.
Tunid however had some trouble with the FIA rules and was fined Sh31,000 (250 Euros) for failing to display the OK Sign Board within one minute of them stopping in the Sleeping Warrior Stage.
Tundo also finished as the top-placed driver in the KNRC Class. He was followed in the second place by Jasmeet Chana driving a MItsubishi Lancer Evo10 also. Third place was grabbed by Nikhil Sachania, sponsored by KCB.