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2017 was the first season that Kenyan driver Manvir Singh Baryan had sat behind the wheel of a ŠKODA FABIA R5. He was entered into the Kenyan Rally Championship for the Multiple Racing Team alongside British co-driver Drew Sturrock and also planning to try his hand at the FIA African Rally Championship (ARC). However, this was dependent on how he adapted to the car and his performances in the early part of the season.

It was fortunate then that he got off to the best possible start, winning the Mombassa Rally in emphatic fashion. He ended up 1 minute and 48 seconds ahead of the field at this four-stage, 113.4-kilometre long event. This was the first ever victory on African soil for the ŠKODA brand and it was also a first career victory for Baryan.  It was a result which would also set the scene for the rest of his season.

But it wasn’t all to be plain sailing for Baryan. He did not compete in the opening round of the African Rally Championship, the Rallye Bandama - Côte d'Ivoire. His next event was the Safari Rally, a Kenyan event, which was the second round of both series, where he would end up in ninth place overall.

Manvir Singh Baryan / Drew Sturrock, ŠKODA FABIA R5, Multiple Racing Team. Rwanda Mountain Gorilla Rally 2017 (Photo: Kigali today)

That result was somewhat artificial however, as Baryan incurred a 10-minute penalty, without which he would have been pushing for an overall podium place. However, his time was still fast enough to secure third place in the ARC standings and this positive result, plus the fact that the bulk of the rest of the championship was being held in East Africa, appears to have convinced him to continue in the ARC.

Next up for Baryan were two more Kenyan Rally Championship events. He finished in fifth position at the Eldoret Rally, but then took victory at the RSC Rally in Nairobi by a comfortable margin of 43 seconds, despite suffering three punctures along the way. Both events gave him valuable time in the ŠKODA FABIA R5 and undoubtedly fuelled the winning run that was to follow.

Having sat out the third round of the African Rally Championship, which was the York Rally in South Africa, Baryan was back for the Pearl of Africa Uganda Rally. He delivered a dominant performance winning eight of the ten special stages and leading from start to finish. The eventual margin of victory was a huge 9 minutes and 51 seconds. Baryan made a history, because it was the first ever ŠKODA’s win in the African Rally Championship.

 

Manvir Baryan at the African Rally Championship 2017

The win left him second in the ARC standings, but he was still unsure whether he could compete in the final three rounds. But event cancellations in the Kenyan championship helped make up his mind and Baryan was on the start line for the next round of the ARC, the Rally Tanzania. 

Despite being his first drive at this event, Baryan was once again in imperious form. He won six of the eight stages driven and - despite a little wobble on stage three which saw him lose the lead for two stages - was never really troubled. He took his second ARC victory of the season by another comfortable margin, this time 6 minutes and 17 seconds.

Manvir Singh Baryan / Drew Sturrock, ŠKODA FABIA R5, Multiple Racing Team. Rwanda Mountain Gorilla Rally 2017 (Photo: Kigali today)

Next up was the Rwanda Mountain Gorilla Rally. By this stage, Baryan led the ARC standings and was closing in on the title. He adopted a cautious approach at this event, which he had not previously driven in, to avoid mistakes. But anyone looking at the times wouldn’t know it. Baryan won every stage on the way to a comfortable victory by 3 minutes and 34 seconds.

That result left him on the brink of the title. He just needed to finish the next event, the Zambia International Rally, to be a champion. Again, he approached the rally cautiously, and despite leading after the first stage, he was pushed hard throughout the first leg by Muno Singh and Jessy Singh. But they held off the challenge to secure a third successive ARC victory and clinch the title.

It was the first championship of Manvir Baryan’s career and also a first-ever African Rally Championship crown for the ŠKODA brand. It also added another continent to the impressive global roster of victories chalked up by the FABIA R5.

Manvir Singh Baryan (born 1982) has been rallying since 2011 in his home country, but prior to this season had driven just one rally outside Kenya, the Pearl of Africa Uganda Rally in 2014. He has benefitted from mentoring from his Multiple Racing Team colleague, the experienced Finnish driver Tapio Laukkanen since switching to an R5 category car in 2015. This season was his first in a FABIA R5 and also the first time he had competed in the African Rally Championship. He won three of the four rounds he entered to be crowned ARC champion at the first time of asking.

Basic Facts

Birthdate: 19. 5. 1982
Birthplace: Nairobi
Nationality: Kenyan
The biggest successes: 2017 African Rally Champion
First rally: KCB Guru Nanak Rally 2011

ŠKODA Champions 2017

Pontus Tidemand
WRC2

Gaurav Gill
APRC

Gustavo Saba
CODASUR & Paraguay

Manvir Baryan
Africa

Marijan Griebel
Europe (U28)

Jan Kopecký
Czech Republic

Kalle Rovanperä
Latvia

Roger Feghali
Lebanon

Hermen Kobus
Netherlands (ONRK)

Teemu Asunmaa
Finland

Filip Nivette
Poland

Vincent Verschueren
Belgium

Norbert Herczig
Hungary

Socratis Tsolakidis

Socratis Tsolakidis
Greece
(read on December 12)

Burak Çukurova

Burak Çukurova
Turkey
(read on December 13)

Fabian Kreim

Fabian Kreim
Germany
(read on December 14)

Simos Galatariotis

Simos Galatariotis
Cyprus
(read on December 15)