Saturday, 25 January 2014

Female Rally Drivers After 1950: Kenya

Stella Macharia and Helen Shiri

Kenya has a long history of motorsport, compared with most other African countries, although rallying is becoming more popular every year in many of them.
The Kenyan championship has a very healthy number of female competitors, most of whom have appeared in the last three years or so. However, even during the days of the first Coronation Safari Rally, female drivers have been a fixture on the scene. Then, they mostly came from colonial backgrounds. Now, most of them are from "local" Kenyan families. Their numbers are still growing.

Lucille Cardwell - Kenyan-based driver of the 1950s and 1960s. She specialised in African rallies, as a navigator and driver. As a navigator, she was third in Class E of the 1961 Safari, partnering Anne Hall. They competed again together in 1965. Lucille also co-drove for her husband on occasion. As a driver, she was fourth overall in 1964, driving a Mercedes with Jill Lead. She was also seventh in 1968, driving a Datsun. Lucille also won some ladies' track championships in Kenya in the late 1950s.

Caroline Gatimu - has been rallying in Kenya since 2012. For her first season, she drove a VW Golf, navigated by Linet Ayuko, but did not finish either of her events. Her first rally, the KCB Advantage Baking Rally, ended in her car getting stuck in mud. In 2013, she acquired a Toyota Levin, and together with Margaret Mungai, her new navigator, became “The Divas On Wheels”. She drove in four Kenyan events, with a best finish of 27th, in the Kajiado Rally. She was also 38th in the Nyeri Rally. The Divas entered the KCB Machackos Rally in 2014, in the Levin, and were 26th overall. They also drove in the Kiambu Rally, but the result is proving hard to track down. Caroline persevered with the Levin in 2015, and was 40th in the Guru Nanak Rally. Her co-driver this time was Saima Khan. 

Stella Macharia - Kenyan driver active in the Kenyan and African championships. In 2012, she drove a Subaru Impreza in three rounds of the Kenyan series, co-driven by Helen Shiri. She finished two of her events, and her best finish was 35th in the KCB Asset Finance Rally. She was registered to compete in the 2013 championship, but had to miss the first round for unstated reasons. Her best result seems to have been 34th, in the KCB Nyeri Rally. Stella and Helen were supported by a cosmetics company.  

Joan Nesbitt - has been rallying in Africa, mainly Kenya, since 2011. Her navigator is Tamara Jones, and they are known as the “Haraka Mamas”. Joan drives a Toyota Tercel. Their first event was the 2011 Safari Rally, which they did not finish. They also ran in that year’s Guru Nanak Rally and the S&L Mortgages Rally. In 2012, they made a second attempt at the Safari Rally, although it is unclear whether or not they finished. The story is the same for the Eldoret Rally and the Mtaani Rally, which they did enter. In 2013, they made a concerted effort at the Kenyan Championship, running in the 2WD class, despite being a self-funded team and not being able to complete all of the rounds. They were 36th in the Safari Rally, and had their best result in the Kilifi Rally, a 30th place. The Njeri Rally and the Kajiado Rally were not as fruitful, although they did finish the Njeri Rally in 35th.  The “Mamas” carried on in 2014, and completed one training rally, the Sikh Union Clubman Rally, at the beginning of the season. They were active in the Formule Club Series, and finished eighth in the second round, at Migaa Estate. Later, they were 29th in the KCB M-Benki Nanyuki Rally. 

Helen Shiri - erstwhile navigator, now driving in Kenyan rallies. She spent most of 2012 navigating for fellow Kenyan woman, Stella Macharia. At the beginning of 2013, they were still “together”, and took part in the Kajiado and Nyeri Rallies. Later in the year, Helen swapped seats, driving a Subaru Impreza in at least two rallies: the Pearl of Africa event in Uganda, and the Mountain Gorilla Rally in Rwanda. She does not appear to have finished the Mountain Gorilla Rally, but she was 18th overall in the Pearl of Africa, navigated by Tuta Mionki. In 2015, she entered the Safari Rally, in an Impreza, but did not finish. Her given name is also sometimes spelled “Hellen”. 

Meschell (Michelle) Van Tongeren - Kenyan driver who competed from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, initially in circuit racing. She has contested the Safari Rally five times, between 1999 and 2003. Her best finish was eighth in 2003, although the event was no longer a part of the WRC. Her car has been a Subaru Impreza on all occasions. From 1999 onwards, she finished in the top five of the Kenyan, Ugandan and Tanzanian rally championships, as well as recording top-five finishes in FIA African Championship rallies. After a long break, she returned to the stages in 2012. Using a Subaru Impreza, she was fourteenth in the Safari Rally. 

Natasha Tundo – started driving in rallies in 2015, after several years of co-driving. She and Chantal Young drove a Subaru Impreza STi in the Kenyan championship, under the team name “Rally Chix”. Natasha’s best finish was 19th, in the Nakuru Rally. She entered the Safari Rally earlier in the year, but had to retire. She was 32nd in the Kenyan championship. In 2016, she did a full season in the Kenyan championship, in the Impreza. Her best result was an eleventh place in the Safari Rally. Another season in the Kenyan series followed in 2017. Her best finish was twelfth, in the Fly540 RSC Rally. Previously, as Natasha di Cangio, she navigated for Frank and Carl Tundo, her father and her brother, and Ugandan driver, Jas Mangat. She did some co-driving in 2018.

Phyllis Wambui - 2013 Kenyan Ladies’ champion. Her first event was the Eldoret (KCB Asset Finance) Rally in 2012, in which she drove a Toyota Levin. She was 37th. She also may have driven in the Guru Nanak Rally, but the result is not forthcoming. In 2013, she did seven rounds of the Kenyan championship, starting off in the Toyota, but upgrading to a Subaru Impreza for the second round, the Nyeri Rally. Sadly, she did not finish. After that, however, she got to the end of the rest of her events. Her best result was 19th, in the Kisumu Rally. She also entered the Safari Rally that year, finishing 35th. This was her first competition with her new navigator, Linet Ayujo. Phyllis also appeared at some motor shows, doing driving exhibitions. She was set to contest the Kenyan championship again in 2014, but does not appear to have competed. Her given name is also sometimes spelled “Phylis” or “Philis”.

(Picture from

1 comment:

  1. We had African/Kenyan SpeedQueens in the 1960s and 1970s. Please do your homework!