Kenya: Two Wheel Drive Leader Varese Upbeat of Lifting the Title

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Nairobi — Two Wheel Drive and Division 3 leader Leonardo Varese remains optimistic he has the guts to keep fighting till the end of this year’s Kenya National Rally Championship (KNRC).

The Sportpesa Rally Team driver consolidated his 2WD Championship lead after the third event of the year at ARC Equator Rally in Naivasha

He also catapulted to the top of the Division 3 log as well as moving up to third place in the KNRC overall standings contrary to all expectations.

Asked about his fairy tale placing in the KNRC series after the Equator Rally, Varese explained: “We are placed third on the KNRC overall standings behind Karan Patel and Jasmeet Chana but we’re not keen on that bit of competition as we know our limitations and nature of car.”

“But then again, for a Two Wheel Drive driver to be placed third in the overall standings is historic and a bit of an embarrassment to those running expensive state-of-the-art machines. For sure, since the late 90s, no 2WD was anywhere near the top of KNRC championship,” he added.

“We drive the most underpowered car in the Championship but we compensate it with guts, reliability and attention to detail. We’ve always remained resilient in the face of adversity as it’s not an easy task to achieve results in an underpowered car,” Varese said.

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Varese also attributed his brave Naivasha outing to his longstanding navigator and former classmate at Brookhouse School Kigo Kareithi.

“Having Kigo (Kareithi) call our pace-notes is like music to my ears. I mean, 16 years together and back on the FIA African Rally Championship front against sophisticated machinery at the weekend was a such great feeling for us,” narrated Varese.

Kareithi guided Varese to 12th overall position at the ARC Equator Rally and indeed settled for second position in KNRC Two Wheel Drive category behind 19-year-old Rio Smith.

Smith had retired with mechanical problems on the first loop of Leg One on Saturday but fixed the damage on his RC2 Rally 4 Ford Fiesta to rejoin the rally on the “Super Rally” rule, thus closing Sunday’s final Leg 2 on 10th overall position.

Varese, on the other hand, endured the full route in Naivasha including the dreaded loose volcanic ash gravel at Kedong to survive the energy-sapping conditions when majority of the competitors were dependent on the Super Rally for survival.

“The potential to keep going in our 2WD Toyota Auris is there. Don’t forget, in Mogotio we could not carry any Class points because we were lone rangers in 2WD. It was good having competition with Rio in Naivasha. I’m looking forward to Sameer Nanji’s return in his 2WD VW Golf.”

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Varese will be looking for another strong finish when the KNRC heads to Eldoret where he will be joined at the iconic Eldoret Rally by Nanji in his bid for title victory in 2022.

“The Classic Safari Rally routes aren’t for the faint hearted; they need good endurance fitness and concentration. I believe I’m in the best possible shape physically- perfect weight, so I never got exhausted. Nevertheless, in such circumstances we could not afford any mistakes given the twisty nature of done stretches.”

“The first loop at the wildlife conservancy in Soysambu was super wet on Saturday. The second time round, the course was dry, so we kept it clean but had a small brush in the wet with a tree on SS3 that took our side mirror but otherwise nothing serious to that effect.”

“Day 2 of Equator Rally featured tough stages with SS7 Loldia being uphill on loose dust/sand which by any standards was tough for any 2WD. And for a1600 cc to pull through, we had to be on song with no mistakes, no offs and full power to avoid getting stuck.”


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1 Leo Varese 30, NE, 24, 54points

2 Rio Smith DNEDNE 30 30points

Sameer Nanji DNF, DNE, DNE