The East African Safari Rally Ltd was formed in 2001, with the first Safari Classic Rally taking place in December 2003. The event had 53 entries and ran through Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, covering 5,000 kilometres in ten days. Night stops were at exotic and famous hotels and lodges.
The East African Safari Classic Rally has since been run every two years, and continues to thrive. Here, we introduce the team behind the event.
Kenyan-born Raju is a successful businessman in several countries, but his roots remain firmly fixed in his ancestral East African soil.
A lifelong supporter of the East African Safari Rally, Raju’s first desire was to be involved as a competitor. When this did not transpire, Raju invested in his passion for this legendary rally and took a controlling interest in the company.
Raju’s primary aims for the East African Safari Classic are to firmly establish this renowned East African Heritage Motor Rally on the global canon of must-do events, to build on the rally’s formidable reputation and help it to scale new heights in competitor excitement and reward.
Raju is a serving board member of the Kenyan Motor Sport Federation.
Rally Manager, Pipi Renu, began his rallying career almost three decades ago, working for many local rally stars on events across Kenya and Tanzania. In 2003, he joined David Sutton’s Historic Motorsport organisation, which led to an association with many of the world’s best drivers and on to rally event management.
Pipi learned his event management expertise from the ground up. Well known to all members of the vibrant East African rally community, Pipi is a highly respected member of the KMSF Rally Commission and an essential part of Safari Classic Rally management.
An accountant by profession, Darshna Shah joined the EASR team in 2015 and is the current Rally Secretary.
It is impossible to list all of Darshna’s responsibilities in one place. Suffice to say that anyone entering the rally will be dealing with this most efficient and organised lady. Her roles include recording all rally business, project management in conjunction with the rest of the management team, entry co-ordination, financial management, local and state official interaction, shipping liaison: the list is endless!
We are fortunate to have Darshna on board: a worthy successor to our much-loved former ‘rally supermomma’, Rushmi Bowry.
Richard Leeke from South Africa is the current Clerk of the Course. Richard brings considerable experience in rallying to our team and has long been one of South Africa’s premier co-drivers.
Richard was South African Rally Champion co-driver in 1977 and won the Toyota 1000 Desert Race seven times between 1984 and 2004.
He worked on the Safari Classic as Deputy Clerk of the Course in 2005 and 2007, and has been Clerk of the Course since 2013. Richard knows our rally and its community extremely well.
Remembering our Dearly Departed
Jaideep S. Vohra
Known fondly as JS, Jaideep Vohra was managing director of one of Kenya’s biggest hotel and tourism groups: Sarova Hotels and Lodges. He was also the chairman of the East African Safari Classic Rally until his passing during the course of the 2017 Safari Classic.
JS was a true people person who touched countless thousands of souls through his personal and professional life. As the director of the Sarova Hotel Group and later chairman of the Kenyan Hotel Keepers’ Association, JS was widely credited as a visionary in East African tourism, bringing real energy to Kenya’s profile overseas. Early success in enticing international tourists to East Africa opened the door to a long and fruitful fellowship with the African Tourism and Travel Association. JS was one of the first members of the fledgling organisation and assisted in developing its global impact.
The chairman was a keen sportsman and a true motorsport devotee, eventually serving a term as chairman of the Kenyan Motor Sport Federation. His tenure was one of reformation and led to the FIA restoring technical assistance to the KMSF, bringing in Ksh6million for the upgrade of communication equipment. His leadership of the East African Safari Classic Rally alongside long-time friend, Raju Kishinani, was widely applauded for bringing new energy to the marathon concept.
President Uhuru Kenyatta was amongst the first to mourn Jaideep Singh Vohra. The President eulogised JS as a key player in promoting Kenya’s tourism, one of the country’s primary economic sectors. “At this moment of sorrow and grief, my thoughts and prayers are with the late Vohra’s family, relatives, friends,” said the President in his condolence message, also praying that God would give the Vohra family the strength and grace to bear the loss.
Mombasa Deputy Governor, Dr William Kingi, also joined in paying tribute to the legacy of JS Vohra. “JS Vohra’s efforts in promoting Mombasa as a world tourist destination and giving us the privilege to host this rally after such a long time of dormancy means a great deal. We have earned a lot economically and socially from his efforts and especially this rally, which has also opened up the interiors of our county to the world to explore the available investment opportunities. We shall surely miss him,” said the Deputy Governor.
The East African Safari Mini-Classic Rally in August 2018 was organised in memory of JS, with all entry fee proceeds going to charity.
Former Event Manager of the East African Safari Classic, Ashok Bhalla, passed away in 2017.
“Our lovely and kind Ashok passed away peacefully and without pain after a four-year, bravely-fought battle with cancer,” said Ashok’s family. “He was a loyal, loving husband and a devoted, doting father and he will be dearly missed.
“Although we are so very sad he is gone, he leaves behind a multitude of beautiful memories that we will always treasure and a wonderful legacy in all that he did in his personal and working life, rallying adventures and through his many friends and his family – both immediate and extended.”
Ashok Bhalla first joined the Safari Classic Rally in 2007 as the rally manager. A rally navigator in his younger days, Ashok won several championships in Kenyan rallying before moving into event management.
Through a career spanning more than four decades, Ashok oversaw some of Kenya’s most respected events. He officiated as a FIA steward in all ARC rounds for more than thirty years and enjoyed a particularly strong bond with the Pearl Rally, in which he served as an FIA steward during the late ’90s and early 2000s. Other career highlights included:
- Chairman of Kenyan Rallies Commission
- Clerk of Course Safari Rally
- Event Manager at East African Safari Rally Ltd
- Chief of Stewards Pearl Rally
Ashok’s passion for rallying played a significant part in establishing the East African Safari Classic Rally as a mainstay for international awareness of African motorsport. “He was on top of everything that needed to be done and had a vast amount of knowledge in and around the industry, which he passed down during his time with us,” remembers Pipi Renu. “We continue to benefit from his shared experience.”
“Mr Ashok knew how to maintain a balance between work and play,” says Darshna Shah. “A strong personality, he commanded respect and gave the same in return. We remember his strong presence and how his face would beam with pride when wearing his official rally shirt to the office.”
Ashok will be remembered fondly for his love of the sport and his commitment to cultivating a social and respectful environment. We share our sympathies and send condolences to his family and many rallying friends.
We were devastated by the loss of our beloved Rushmi Bowry early in 2017 (photo, right with JS Vohra). Rushmi joined our group in 2007 and soon became the touchstone for all associated with the event.
Rushmi’s dedication to her work on the East African Safari Classic Rally came from a heartfelt passion for rallying. Drawn to the sport by her father, she associated rally people with family; all of us felt as if we had been taken under her wing.
“Rushmi was more than a mother to all who worked with her,” remembers Darshna Shah. “It is no surprise that rally officials and competitors often referred to her as ‘mama’. Her warm loving nature was not restricted to her family; she dearly loved all who she connected with through the sport, especially her colleagues at Rally HQ. Their happy and sad moments were her happy and sad moments.”
Despite the pain of Rushmi’s illness, she always had a smile on her face. Our rally mama loved life and lived it to the maximum, filling it with love and laughter. We miss her warmth, the calm confidence in her voice and the comfort that her friendship brought, even when apart. All of us at EASR cherish our memories of time spent with Rushmi.