Chandra Shekhar Mehta, born on June 20, 1945, transcended the realm of rally driving, leaving an indelible mark on the sport during the dynamic era of the 1970s and 1980s. Hailing from a family of affluence in Uganda, Mehta’s journey from the plantations of his homeland to becoming a rallying legend in Kenya is a captivating tale.

The Early Days
At the tender age of 21, Shekhar Mehta embarked on his rallying odyssey, steering a BMW into the challenging world of motorsports. Little did the world know that this young Ugandan of Indian descent would soon become a force to be reckoned with.

Triumph Over Adversity
Mehta’s rise in the rallying scene coincided with challenging times in Uganda. Faced with the turmoil of Idi Amin’s regime in 1972, he sought refuge in Kenya. This upheaval paved the way for his inaugural victory at the Safari Rally in 1973, marking the beginning of a spectacular career.

Safari Rally Dominance
From 1979 to 1982, Shekhar Mehta clinched the Safari Rally title consecutively, solidifying his status as one of the greatest rally drivers of all time. His prowess behind the wheel of Datsun cars became synonymous with victory on the demanding African terrain.

Shekha Mehta in action in his Nissan PA10

Family Legacy and Personal Triumphs
Born into the illustrious Mehta family, Shekhar not only brought driving prowess but also a legacy to rally racing. His marriage to co-driver Yvonne Pratt in 1978 and the birth of their son Vijay in 1980 mirrored the stability and commitment that defined both his personal and professional life.

Global Recognition
Shekhar Mehta’s success extended beyond Africa, with notable victories in the inaugural African Rally Championship in 1981, the Cyprus Rally in 1976, and podium finishes at prestigious events like the Rally Codasur, the Acropolis Rally, and the Rallye Côte d’Ivoire.

The Tragic Turn
In 1986, tragedy struck as a near-fatal crash at Rallye des Pharaons in Egypt ended his illustrious driving career while representing Peugeot. Undeterred, Mehta’s passion for rallying endured, leading him to transition into influential administrative roles within the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA).

Legacy and Enduring Impact
Chandra Shekhar Mehta’s legacy transcends the records he set on rally tracks. His untimely demise in 2006 did not diminish his influence; instead, it elevated him to the status of an enduring icon. Serving as the president of the FIA Rally commission and the interim President of the World Rally Championship commission, his commitment to the sport’s governance showcased his lasting impact.

Chandra Shekhar Mehta, the Ugandan-born Kenyan rally driver, remains etched in the annals of rally history as a true icon and a trailblazer for future generations of drivers. His journey from adversity to triumph, both on and off the track, defines him not just as a rallying legend but as a symbol of resilience and enduring passion for the sport.

Story By Mwambazi Lawrence

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