- Karan Patel won the KNRC national title
- Safari Rally provided huge success and global recognition
- Kalle Rovanperra clinched the Safari title
Despite losing the FIA African Rally Championship (ARC) title on the homestretch to Zambian Leroy Gomes, Karan Patel literally established a scintillating reputation as one of the continent’s fastest men on four wheels.
This was after he settled for second overall position in Africa behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta Rally2 (the former R5) before claiming a maiden career Kenya National Rally Championship (KNRC) title a few days later.
Although Karan’s African title bid came a cropper, due to the muddy gremlins in the Pearl of Africa Uganda Rally and a “no show” in the season-opening Bandama Rallye of Côte d’Ivoire, he garnered a total of 11 wins both in Kenya (7) and at continental level (4).
McRae Kimathi’s podium during the ARC season-closer in Lusaka handed him the ARC3 title whilst Hamza Anwar’s fourth saw the latter win theARC Junior title.
Patel brothers win big
And it was double celebration for the Patel family in Kenya, when Karan’s younger sibling Kush Patel racked up a miden KNRC double in Division 2 and Group S classes. Karan, on his part, also supplemented the Division One title with his KNRC overall Championship victory.
Another season double was accomplished by Leonardo Varese who sealed his Championship number six in the Two Wheel Drive category- over and above- his Division 3 championship success.
Varese finished 4th overall on the KNRC overall log piloting an underpowered 1600cc 2WD Toyota Auris behind Karan, Jasmeet Chana (eventual Group N Champion) and Kush.
After beating Jasmeet Chana in a two-horse race for the KNRC overall title, Karan remarked:”Winning my first KNRC is definitely something to cherish and remember for the rest of my life and I’m sure that goes the same with the rest of the team; as we have worked really hard from the very start in 2014 when we joined rallying.”
But asked about his 2023 prospects and what signing for RedBull means, Karan quipped: “The idea will be to try and do all races; which is the ARC and KNRC and maybe a few European races.”
Winning the season-closing ARC Zambia Rally in Lusaka earned Karan the coveted LG SJAK Sports Personality of the month of October, though his major breakthrough came when the former East African 85cc Motocross Champion signed a deal to become Kenya’s first RedBull athlete.
After sealing the KNRC title, the motocross convert spent three days in Finland with Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT in their championship celebration and pre-season test where he impressed winter instructors. The series of experiences with the star-studded Toyota Gazoo outfit in Finland inspired the Kenyan champion.
Safari does it again
On another positive note and for the second time running, Safari Rally Kenya emerged as the most televisually attractive WRC event with a much bigger audience on social and mainstream media.
A report from the championship’s commercial rights holder, the WRC Promoter, indicated that the 2022 Safari out-performed last year’s edition by a whopping 5 million page impressions on Facebook.
On the global stage, McRae Kimathi became the first Kenyan to enter the FIA Junior WRC and only the fourth African driver to ever compete in the category. He also became the first Kenyan to rally on snow in Rally Sweden. McRae finished sixth overall in both the WRC Junior and WRC3 championships.
In Naivasha, Maxine Wahome became the first woman in history to win the WRC3 (WRC’s third tier category) during Safari where he won by 25 minutes and 27s, and finished the event 16th overall, one place behind the then M-Sport Rally1 driver Gus Greensmith.
Maxine beat former BRDC British Formula 3 driver Jeremy Wahome [no relation] while McRae Kimathi sealed an all-Kenyan podium.
Kalle Rovanpera once again proved the class of the field as the 21-year-old completed 19 brutal gravel Safari stages (363.44km) to take his fourth win from six events then thus fulfilling his family’s dream after his dad Harri had only managed second place on the fable Safari 20 years ago.
Only six of 12 WRC Rally1 cars completed the full rally distance in what proved to be the toughest event of the season by far. Kajetan Kajetanowicz scored a career-best result to win the WRC2 on Safari and move top of the championship standings.
The Pole, competing in Africa for the first time, led from start to finish of the gruelling four-day fixture in a Škoda Fabia Rally2.