Meet The Rally Driver – Aakif Virani

We are super excited to see Aakif Virani competing in this year’s #WRC and carrying the Enashipia Resort & Spa banner once again with pride!

We previously had a little Q&A with him to see what pushed him into his career, among other stories. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: How did you stumble into the world of racing?

A: I got into racing because of my late Dad. He used to take part in races at the Embakasi race track as well as other rally championships, in the early 60s and 70s. I used to visit his workshop when he was one of the top Subaru distributors in Kenya and came into contact with a huge variety of rally cars,  engine models and spare parts which used to be built there in preparation for the Safari Rally. I would watch my late father customize the vehicles, as well as take part in handling some of the support teams and drivers. I loved sharing such moments with him especially as he took down and built the vehicles back up. My Dad stopped taking part in rallies as a condition from my mother, when I was born.

As I grew older, I moved to the UK to embark on my high school studies and was introduced to the late and great Aryton Senna, by my father, who was his neighbour in London. I was very much inspired by him and the moments we shared watcing F1 races on television. Later on is when I figured I wanted to take part in motosports and the heritage I wanted to build upon was that of my father.

I bought my first rally car a few years before my Dad passed away. He wasn’t too thrilled about my decision – being the only son and all. He actually threatened to kick me out of our home if I didn’t quit rallying, but I was unwilling to change my decision.

My late father would actually advise the mechanics at his workshop to inform him of my operations and vehicle preparations without my knowledge. It was however comforting to know that as much as he wasn’t excited about me racing, he was still passionate about my choices and just wanted to keep a watchful eye.

Q: How do you mentally prepare for a race?

A: … by doing a few simple things… The first and most important is saying a prayer to my Creator and Almighty. Secondly, I meditate for a bit and have a soft drink or some water. Then I get comfortable with my surrounding, focus on the circuit, relax myself and give it a shot!

Q: What’s been your proudest moment in the sport?

A: My proudest moment was recently when I finished 5th in the WRC Safari Rally Kenya competition in the WRC 3 category. Prior to that was in 2018 when I finished 1st in the B13 category and 3rd in Division 1.

Q: What advice would you have for a beginner?

A: That would be to embrace the sport – with safety in mind – and also gently build confidence in the vehicle you drive. Learn its potential and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Push your car and yourself to the limit! Make sure you have a good support team, race engineer and do not compromise on safety by building a cheap car or purchasing subpar spare parts.

Q: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt in your career?

 A: Sometimes it’s important to settle for a lower position than take mindless risks. On the final day of the WRC on 10th of November, 2012, I was running 4th overall in the WRC 3 category, but I wanted push for the very crucial 1 minute time difference to secure myself a 10th spot in the overall standings, as the 4th place in my category was already secured. I pushed myself too far and ended up crushing into a ditch and getting stuck for a whole 35 minutes.

Needless to say, I lost the overall standing I was aiming for as well as pushed my category 3 place down to 5th. Don’t get me wrong, some risk is required, but not all risks are necessary. Would I do it again though? Hmmmm… Possibly so. Lesson learnt here is to weigh your pros and cons, push yourself as much as possible, but always be cautious enough so as not to throw away the entire race.

#MeetAtEnashipai #EnashipaiWRCFun #WRC

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