Three-time Safari Rally winner Joginder Singh died at the age of 81. The Kenyan passed away on Sunday during a visit to London.
Singh was Kenya's most successful rally driver, winning the African marathon twice when it was a round of the World Rally Championship. Success on the Safari in the 1960s and '70s demanded exceptional mechanical sympathy allied to an almost unnatural understanding of East African terrain.
Just getting to the finish was an achievement. Singh started 22 Safaris. He finished 19 and won three. The "Flying Sikh" knew the African marathon as well as anybody. But he knew how to get to the finish better than anybody.
One of 10 sons, Kenyan-born Singh was immediately surrounded by cars – the family business was a garage. But it took him until the age of 26 before he started competing. Simultaneously, he took on the role of patrolman in the Royal East African Automobile Association.
Singh would go on to win more than 60 rallies in his native East Africa, but it was three victories on arguably the world's most infamous event that really made his name.
His first win in the event – then still known as the East African Safari – came in 1965. Driving a Volvo PV544 that had already been thrashed for 42,000 miles by drivers including Tom Trana, Joginder and his brother Jaswant defeated the might of Citroen, Mercedes and Saab factory teams to clinch a comfortable victory in Nairobi.
Nine years later and at the wheel of what was, by comparison to the opposition, an underpowered 1600cc Mitsubishi Lancer, Singh made the most of the wet conditions to collect his second Safari win. It was also his first in the World Rally Championship and the maiden success at that level for the Mitsubishi name.
In 1976, in similarly difficult weather, he repeated that victory, ably demonstrating that while Lancia's Stratos might have the muscle, he had the guile and grace to take his Lancer to another famous success.