After opening a hefty 17 points gap in the African Rally Championship (ARC) title race, Zimbabwean Conrad Rautenbach looks to be a clear favourite to top the Tanzania leg that will officially rev off in Dar es Salaam on Saturday morning.
Supported by Frenchman Nicolas Klinger, Rautenbach, who is reported to have hired a state- of-the-art latest version of Subaru WRC N14 from Quentin Mitchell of Kenya, stands as a favourite to edge out the rest of competitors should his machine not develop any mechanical difficulties.
Another Zimbabwean driver , James Whyte, who triumphed in the previous edition of the Kobil Rally, has expressed some worries over how best to contain him.
Whyte, who will be driving Subaru N10 navigated by Phil Archenoul, is well-versed with the route after making a race ahead of Saturday’s event.
“The stages are extremely fast with a mixture of smooth and rough sections. It will be really difficult to catch Rautenbach if we are to stay within reach of his tally at the overall standings of the ARC,” said Archenoul.
“He is 17 points ahead. A win is worth 25 points and with two rounds remaining (Rwanda and Madagascar), it will be a hard task. Rautenbach has performed exceptionally well in whatever rally car he contests in considering he has hired a Subaru Impreza N14 for this event from Quentin Mitchell of Kenya,” added Archenoul.
He was also full of praise for his driver (Whyte) though he admits age is catching up with all of them – him (55).
Whyte trails Rautenbach by 17 points with two legs of the continental event left and feels he must sparkle to oust the leader in Dar es Salaam.
A win for Rautenbach would leave the rest of the drivers in the title race paralysed as they have to pray for him to flop in Rwanda and Madagascar.
Third-placed in the continental rally standings Alain Dethise, who has 37 points, is far from the title race and prays to scoop all the 25 points in Dar es Salaam to keep his title dream alive.
By Friday only six drivers had confirmed to contest for the ARC event, including Zambian Essa Mohamed who is not in the ARC top five standings. Besides the ARC event, the rest of the drivers in the fleet of 24 would vie for the national championship.
With hundred points at stake for the best finisher of the weekend event, the national championship is expected to produce fireworks.