Technology comes along for the bumpy ride
Rally legend Ian Duncan has seen technology revolutionise the motorsport, during a glittering career which has seen him win the Kenyan Rally Championship an incredible six times. Liquid Telecom provides an update on the Kenyan rally season so far.
Ian Duncan has just returned from the the KCB Safari Rally – one of the biggest and most important dates in the Kenyan National Rally Championship (KNRC).
The gruelling three-day event, which took place around Naivasha and Nairobi, saw Ian finish a commendable fourth overall and first in class. Covering hundreds of kilometres, the roads wind through private farms, where drivers on occasion spot zebras, lions and giraffes (thankfully a safe distance away from the track).
The longest stage of the event – a 40km stretch running from Soysambu Gate to Lake End – is repeated twice, causing no end of problems for the drivers: “The terrain around the lake is very soft and fragile,” he says. “So while it might be flat the first time round, by the next time round, there can be huge ruts. I had four punctures in total and a lot of the other drivers had similar issues.”
Only three races into the 64th edition of the KNRC, the season so far has been mixed for Ian, who came second in the Kajiado rally in February and led the Kisumu rally in May to only be forced to retire midway with dehydration.
He has already been impressed, however, with the high standard of the tournament. The arrival of more international drivers – such as Finland's Tapio Laukkanen and Canada's Moez Malik – has raised the overall quality of competition, while also helping to attract more investment.
Liquid Telecom has been a strong supporter of the Kenyan motor sport. As well as sponsoring Ian Duncan since 2015, we have been exploring ways to use technology and connectivity to improve coverage of the event.
Liquid Telecom Kenya provided live streaming throughout an entire day of the KCB Safari Rally, which featured some fantastic footage captured by drones circling over the course. The drones were connected to Liquid Telecom's free Wi-Fi hotspots located deep in the Kenyan wilderness, which were then linked back over high-speed microwave to Liquid Telecom's award-winning fibre network.
Ian has been impressed by the clever application of drones and technology, which he says is helping to broaden the appeal of the motorsport and make it more accessible to a wider audience: “If you look back twenty years ago, the TV coverage was practically non-existent. It's just been an incredible advancement, which has helped raise the profile of rally car driving.”
Other advancements in technology are helping to improve the safety and precision of the motorsport: “We will be introducing a new automatic timing system, that is accurate to within a thousandth of a second,” he says.
As part of its sponsorship of the KNRC, Liquid Telecom Kenya is in the process of procuring state-of-the-art timing equipment from TAG Heuer, which will bring Kenyan rallies in-line with the very latest racing standards.
Liquid Telecom Kenya will be in charge of operating and maintaining the World Rally Championship standard equipment, as well as supplying the critical communication links.
More of a petrol-head than a technophile, Ian purrs with enthusiasm about the huge advancements that have been made to rally cars during his 35-year long career. “The cars just keep getting better every year. They are quicker, lighter, more reliable, consume less fuel and are more environmentally friendly – the progression has just been amazing.”
He is now looking ahead to the next race at the end of July in Mombasa, although admits there is a lot of cleaning and repairing to do between now and then: “Rallying unfortunately tends to be about two or three days of driving the car, and then about one month fixing it!”
To learn more about Liquid Telecom Kenya's involvement with Ian Duncan and the KNRC, click here