NAIROBI, Jan. 3 (Xinhua) -- Kenyan driver Manvir Baryan is braced for a stiff challenge to his FIA African Rally Championship (ARC) crown from Norwegian ace Mads Ostberg.
Baryan is seeking to retain the crown for a second year in a row but he has his work cut out with the entry of Ostberg in the eight-legged continental competition that kicks off with the Bandama Rally in Cote d'Ivoire on February 23.
The Norwegian is a former Citroen and M-Sport factory driver who won the Portugal Rally Championships in 2012 with a Ford Fiesta.
Ostberg is also a three-time Norwegian National Rally Championship winner. "I will consider any option involving an opportunity to be behind the wheel of a rally car," he said when confirming his interest in the 2019 ARC.
"I'm happy that I successfully retained the ARC trophy and I look forward to defend the African crown in 2019," Baryan said.
Kenya has been granted an opportunity by world governing body FIA to host round four of the ARC series on July 6 and 7 that is penned in the local calendar as the world famous Safari Rally.
The leg is important to the country in that it will serve as a World Rally Championship (WRC) candidate event ahead of return of the global circuit in the country this year.
Legendary rally driver and FIA Race Director, Michele Mouton, is expected in the country in coming weeks to inspect the routes that have been earmarked for the candidate rally that will be held on the first weekend of July.
The Safari Rally, which was launched in 1953, was part of the WRC until 2002 before it was dropped from the global circuit.