Sport

Mburu shone as one of the top rally car preparation experts

Mburu shone as one of the top rally car preparation experts
  • Mburu became a shining example of the educational excellence at the University of Nairobi’s School of Mechanical Engineering and most sought after professional long before the emergence of small tuning companies of the Blue Subaru infamy.

The University of Nairobi has produced many engineers and three of them - Surinder Thatthi, Azar Anwar and Peter Mburu - ended up in the rallying arena.

However, Mburu became a shining example of the educational excellence at the University of Nairobi’s School of Mechanical Engineering and most sought after professional long before the emergence of small tuning companies of the Blue Subaru infamy.

Mburu is one of the top rally car preparation experts, and his services served many in the 80s through the new millennium when the sport was dominated by many standard cars unlike today where Mitsubishi and Subaru, even in showroom trim are extremely fast, expensive and dangerous, rule the roost.

Mburu is also the best example of how homegrown engineers have the know-how to innovate and create. He knows the layout of just about any engine and combines electronic gadgets and hand-held tools effectively to revive salvage to a championship-winning machine in the highly-competitive Kenyan championship.

Many compare him to veteran Amon Njathi who prepared his Datsun 1600SS car at his own garage - Njathi Motor Works -situated along Kombo Munyiri Road - in the 70s and dared the factory team using the same make in the Safari Rally.

At one time, Mburu was service engineer for Anwar, previous Africa Championship rally drive. He still prepares rally cars for budget drivers at his Comprehensive Motor Services garage located on Likoni Road in Nairobi, opposite BAT premises.

At his prime in late the 90s and 2000, he also showcased his engineering ingenuity by driving the work of his hands in the national championship. But the inspiring story of George Muhindi and the Alfa Romeo Junior car in 1997 Safari remains the most visible piece of engineering work crafted by Mburu.

Mburu salvaged the Alfa Romeo Junior car, boosted the engine, fixed the roll cage, and stiffened the bodywork to produce a long-distance machine for Muhindi and the car survived the rigours of the Safari in 1997. Muhindi cherishes the car that he says helped him cross the Rubicon.

Mburu was also able to put into practice the work of his hands in the Daihatsu Charade car he stripped naked and fitted in a 12-valve engine of a Toyota and drove it in the national championship events before handing it over to Martin Gitata. The car was christened the ‘Pocket Rocket”.

But the distinction of his engineering to date is the Subaru Legacy station wagon whose chasis he cut and shortened, plus the bodywork which he transformed into a nibble hatchback. He also did the mechanical bits and pieces, including a bigger and better turbo charger.

At the end was a SPV car which joined the Nissan or Toyota pick-ups of 1994 Safari champion Ian Duncan to light up the national championship before rules decreed such ingenuity had no room in modern-day rallying.

Mburu says the 70s through 90s were the golden era of rallying. Rules were simple, classification made it easy for not well to do privateers to race using locally prepared standard cars.

Today is different. The WRC Toyota Yaris, selling in Kenya as a vitz is a cheap, a much-beloved car which cannot be fine-tuned by people like Mburu and if this was to be achieved, the cost would be astronomical because the factory team does not sell competition parts.

The “lower” version of this car racing in the R5 category is equally expensive and technically advanced. Again this is because you cannot inter-change standards parts with competition ones.

Mburu reckons that this era of the 90s can be recreated if official tamed the notorious boy racers in souped-up Blue Subarus and Evolutions and gradually came forward to regulate this group of younger stars.

Unlike in the 90s, today many young people with disposable income are buying cars which they drive around in peer-group competition which he described as “death in Motion.”

According to Mburu, if these racers should accepted a roll cage, stiffened body parts, fireproof overalls and crash helmets in a car are the elementary steps of racing, and then the future of rallying is guaranteed.