The British motorsport preparation specialist MML Sports is looking forward to returning to the venue of one of the most iconic motorsport events, the Safari Rally in Kenya. The event, which forms part of both the Kenyan National Rally Championship (KNRC) and the FIA African Rally Championship (ARC), holds a special place in the heart for the company, with three wins in its previous guise as Ralliart Europe, which ran the works Mitsubishi rally team for decades.
This year, MML Sports has built two cars for Team Kibos; one for the Kenyan series and one for the FIA ARC. The team has been doing well, with a win already in the ARC and a superb performance on the last round, in Uganda, when driver Jaspreet 'Jassi' Chatthe was leading the event before damaging an oil cooler on a landing and having to retire.
The KCB Safari Rally is vying to return to the FIA World Rally Championship in 2017 and as such, has repositioned itself to run on roads which are more representative of the modern WRC rather than those which comprised the event when it last formed part of the championship, in 2002.
Therefore, the traditional extra bracing and crash protection and exterior lighting are no longer needed. And as the event will now be run on closed roads, rather than the more familiar open-road 'sections', the Group N cars that MML Sports built for Team Kibos will be more than up to the task.
Featuring additional protection and bracing over their 'European' specification Group N, the cars have already shown their pace and strength, gaining a win in Tanzania in their first season. The result is that Chatthe is leading the KNRC and is third in the ARC in what the team considers to be a year of testing and familiarisation.
Commenting ahead of the event, MML Sports MD John Easton said; "I'm really pleased with the way the team has been developing so far this season and with Jassi's speed in the car. His lead in Uganda at the end of the first day was excellent and if it hadn't been for the heavy landing after approaching a jump too fast, I think he could have taken the overall win.
"I am also looking forward to returning to Kenya for the Safari Rally. It has been quite a while since I was there in this capacity and I have very fond memories of the event. As the Mitsubishi works team, we won the event three times - twice with Tommi [Makinen] and once with Richard [Burns] - and a Mitsubishi has won it nine times in the last 11 years. With a record like that, I'm hopeful that Team Kibos can add another win to the manufacturer's roster."
The event begins on Friday 12 September with a ceremonial start in Nairobi before two days of action based in the Nanyuki region, three hours north of the Kenyan Capitol.