Female crew breaks barriers in WRC Safari Rally debut

Making my debut as a female crew member in the World Rally Championship Kenyan leg is like coming home after 20 years.

  • 3 years ago
  • July 6, 2021
4 min read
Navigator Linet Ayuko, Driver Maxime Wahome, and Navigator Chantel Young during the Team Betika for the Safari Rally launch Navigator Linet Ayuko, Driver Maxime Wahome, and Navigator Chantel Young during the Team Betika for the Safari Rally launch. | Betika Kenya media Team, Picha Duka
Chantel Young
First-person source
Chantel Young is a rally navigator who has worked with different rally drivers. She currently partners with driver Maxine Wahome.

Linet Ayujko is a legendary Rally navigator with close to 10 years of experience. She has participated in 22 rallies winning numerous titles. Her best finish in the Safari Rally was 14th. She partners with driver Hussein Malik.
The Safari Rally will be part of the WRC Series this year, making a comeback on Kenyan soil after 19 years of absence. Kenya will be represented by four women.

The Safari Rally has been heralded as one of the toughest rallies on the World Rally Championship (WRC) calendar. The event kicked off on June 24 2021.

NAIROBI, Kenya — Seeing my name on the FIA World Rally Championship entry list is history in the making.

Before 2016, the auto racing field was male-dominated. For close to four years now, more and more women are coming on board. 

Making my debut in the Safari Rally will encourage more women drivers and navigators to join the sport.

Joy and pride

My entry comes with joy and pride. It comes in honor of my granny and grandad, who stood beside me from my early days with the ‘Rally Chics’ when I partnered with Natasha Tundo.

Growing up, we savored watching the rally and international drivers like Joginder Singh, Patrick Njiru, Shekha Mehta, and Ian Duncan. 

It was exciting, and I believed one day I would be in the rally myself.

Co-driving with Natasha Tundo and Samir Khan set the stage. 

Making my debut in the World Rally Championship Kenyan leg is like coming home after 20 years. Calling the pace notes for fellow debutant Maxine Wahome is a dream come true.

I finally have an opportunity to navigate in a FIA competition and inspire women like me.

My faith is my foundation

Growing up watching the World Rally Championship, it is an incredible honor to be shortlisted as car number 59 where I can compete against ‘the greats.’

Even more joyful, I will make my debut in the international event hosted in my home.

In this rally, I am trusting God. I will partner with speedster Hussein Malik. Our car sustained damage after crashing into a ditch during the ARC Equator Rally, but we have repaired and fine-tuned it to safari specifications.

We are ready to roar.

Malik and I have been partners for some time. We work vigorously to get our pace notes. We have been testing our Mitsubishi Evolution 10 on rough terrains to be ready for the big showpiece because we want to make Kenya proud.

With the Safari back in the international scene, it generates significant excitement. You wake up thinking about it.

Only two women were part of the last Safari — me and Tuta Minka. Now four women are participating.

To be able to compete with men on the same playing field is a dream come true. We hope to beat them in some sections.

Success based on experience

I have been navigating races for close to 10 years and have won some awards. I’ve worked with different drivers throughout the journey and I have gained experience.

I started as a volunteer going out with drivers to learn, and I then became interested in being inside the car. I fell in love with navigating. I’m fearless now — an adrenaline junkie — and rallying has taught me never to give up.

During the ARC, we were not able to finish because we crashed in a ditch. Hussein is an impressive driver, and we have worked hard to ensure we finish the Safari. We have what it takes to make a mark this June.

More women than ever in the rally

I am happy that we have the all-women team Maxine Wahome and Navigator Chantal Louis Young. Slyvia Vindevogel is also navigating for Giancarlo Davite. She will be running on an Italian License. 

We are looking forward to seeing more women join the sport, and actually, we have an association that seeks to bring young women onboard; it will be nice to see more women teams together in the races.

The Safari Rally has always been challenging. In Africa, Kenyan drivers are the best. 

There will be stiff competition, and everyone will chase the glory. Hussein Malik is focusing on finishing inside the top 20 brackets.

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