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No fluke! Karan Patel wins Equator Rally



No fluke! Karan Patel wins Equator Rally

Karan Patel stretched his body backward, straightened his back at the victors’ finish line at Voi Wildlife Lodge at 12 noon, and wished for just one thing, chicken.

“I just want a chicken because I am hungry,” he mourned, still not sure he had won the Africa Rally Championship Equator Rally which claimed all but nine finishers after two days of fast and furious competition around the expansive Teita Estate.

“It has been an intense three days of physical and mental suppression. I guess that is why I now feel really hungry.”

Patel had every reason to be grateful. He lost the Africa title last year after a road mishap in the Uganda round, never to recover valuable points despite posting top results in the rest of the rounds.

The Equator Rally was also very scary. Three top contenders–Hamza Anwar, Piero Canobbio and Aaakif Virani–kissed in the event bye in the blink of an eye on Saturday evening and Sunday morning.

Karan’s victory on Sunday was not a fluke. It was a well calculated campaign involving a team of highly skilled professionals led by Robert Warmish, a race engineer who worked for the Ford factory team in the 90s and early 2000s for top drivers like former world champion Colin McRae.

Warmish runs a fully fledged workshop complete with all spare parts for Patel’s Ford Fiesta R2, a second-tier rally machine behind the top of the ranged Rally 1 car for works teams. A team of dedicated mechanics work under Warmish full time.

Patel’s father Kiran Patel takes care of finances and logistics. A former Kenya Airways pilot, he approaches the rally programme with an eye to detail.

“As Warmish will tell you, we take our work very seriously, and every victory recorded is not the work of fluke. We take things seriously.”

The Ford Fiesta and the old but mechanically sound Subaru Impreza GC8 of Karan’s younger brother Kush Patel, are stripped after every rally and the body and engine components subjected to Non Destructive Testing (NDT) through a computer system application to detect any cracks or undiscernible structural defects for mechanical attention.

“Karan is a trained helicopter engineer and applies this technology on our rally cars in a similar way he does to his clients at his firm aircrafts maintenance firm Tail Wind three times annually,” said Kiran.

“We invite Warmish to come and rebuild every part of the car in December. He also goes out testing with Karan to achieve the best car set up for dampers and suspension and his sitting position inside the car.”

The team’s technical knowledge on the Ford has earned them the services of Ugandan Yasin Nasser who finished second on Sunday in a Ford Fiesta R2 second generation.

Warmish said this is the philosophy of all work teams today where car preparation is given 90 percent of a driver’s chances of victory. “The driving provides only 10 percent,” he said.

Karan described his success as being tough, and he can no longer take things for granted as Jeremiah Wahome, McRae Kimathi and Hamza Anwar are no longer rookies.

“They drive to beat me, and I am happy that I am their benchmark. They are becoming very good,” said Patel who credited his success also to his navigator Tauseef Khan and the entire team.

Kiran said he was happy to see the young driver in the FIA Rally Star programme progress fast. “It is very good for the sport,” he said.

McRae was the only finisher amongst the juniors despite driving the last stage on Saturday and Sunday’s sections using protective goggles after the windscreen of the Ford Fiesta Rally 3 broke.

It was very painful for Jeremiah Wahome who was challenging for a second position after his car suffered mechanical failure in the second last stage of the day. Anwar suffered a similar fate on Saturday, leaving Kimathi to score maximum points in the Africa Rally 3 category.


1.Karan Patel/Tauseef Khan, Ford Fiesta R2, 2 hours 20 minutes 59.3 seconds;

2.Yasin Nasser/Ali Katumba, Ford Fiesta R2, 2:27:19.6;

3.Jasmeet Chana/Ravinder Chana, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 10, 2:28:58.7;

4.Jas Mangat/Joseph Kamya, Mitsubishi EVO 10, 2:29:10;

5.Izhar Mirza/Kavit Dave, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 10, 2:32:28.0;

6.Asad Anwar/Shamir Yusuf, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 10, 2:37:02.7;

7.Nikil Sachania/Deep Patel, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 10, 2:39:28.2;

8.Kush Patel/Mudasar Chaudry, Subaru Impreza GC8, 2:54:32.4;

9.McRae Kimathi/Mwangi Kioni, Ford Fiesta R3, 3:24:56.4.

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