- June 20, 1945
- April 12, 2006
- Not Active
Chandrashekhar 'Shekhar' Mehta (1945-2006) was a Kenyan rally driver, born in Uganda with Indian origin, who was active in rallying between 1966 and 1987, scoring several national and regional rally titles and winning five times in the World Rally Championship. He achieved all five WRC wins in the same event – the Safari Rally.
After retiring from rallying, Mehta held various administrative positions in FIA, including a Presidency in the FIA WRC commision.
Starting a career in a BMW, first success in a Datsun 240Z
Shekhar Mehta was born in June 1945 in Uganda, in a wealthy family of Indian descent which owned a plantation in Uganda. He started rallying in 1966 in a BMW. In 1968, he participated for the first time in the East African Safari Rally, driving a Peugeot 204 and not finishing the rally.
In 1971, a year after Safari Rally became a part of the International championship for manufacturers, Mehta was driving a Datsun 240Z for Nissan Motor Co. With a help of a navigator Mike Doughty, he finished in the second place, behind teammate Edgar Herrmann. In the same year, he also participated at RAC Rally, finishing in 19th place.
In 1972, Mehta participated in several international rallies in a Datsun 240Z, finishing best in the sixth place at Acropolis Rally.
Four starts, one victory in the inaugural World Rally Championship
In 1972, Mehta's family emigrated to Kenya. In 1973, he participated in four events of the inaugural World Rally Championship. His first WRC event was the East African Safari Rally in Kenya and he won, together with Lofty Drew in the #1 Datsun 240Z. On a way to his maiden WRC victory, he defeated Harry Kallstrom and Ove Andersson.
In other WRC events in 1973, he recorded DNFs in Morocco and Finland and finished 37th at RAC Rally.
Regular entrant at Safari Rally
In the following years, Mehta was a regular entrant at Safari Rally and participated additionally in some other WRC events. In 1974, he was 11th at Safari Rally in a Lancia Fulvia 1.6 Coupe HF and finished fourth at Rallye Sanremo in a Lancia Beta Coupe.
In 1975, his best result in three WRC attempts was the sixth place at Rallye du Maroc in a Datsun 160J. Driving the same car, he had a crash during the road section at 1976 Safari Rally and the finished third at Acropolis Rally, sharing a car with Henry Liddon.
A wife as a navigator in a rally car
In September 1976, Mehta won Cyprus Rally, a part of the European Rally Championship. His navigator in the #2 Datsun 160J was his girlfriend Yvonne Pratt, who became his wife in 1978.
Yvonne stayed Shekhar's navigator until the end of his career, in a combination with other navigators, sharing with him some of his greatest successes.
Four consecutive wins at Safari Rally
Shekhar and Yvonne scored their first WRC podium together at 1978 Acropolis Rally, finishing third in a Datsun 160J. In 1979, when the first World Rally Championship for drivers was held, Mehta scored his second win at Safari Rally, sharing the #9 Datsun 160J with Mike Doughty.
It was just a beginning of four-year winning streak at Safari Rally. In 1980, Mehta and Doughty repeated a victory in the #1 Datsun 160J. The next win came in 1981 in a Datsun Violet GT. The fifth victory in the most famous African rally, Mehta scored in 1982 in the #1 Datsun Violet GT, sharing a car again with Mike Doughty.
Two championship titles in two years
Mehta scored all five WRC wins alongside Mike Doughty. In that period, Yvonne Mehta contributed to the championship title in the 1980 Gulf Rally Challenge and WRC podium at 1981 Rally Argentina, where they finished second in a Datsun Violet GT.
In 1981, Mehta and Mike Doughty won the inaugural African Rally Championship, scoring also WRC podium with third place at Rallye Cote d'Ivoire.
Racing in Group B era with Nissan 240 RS
When the era of Group B rally cars started, Nissan also had its representative among those rally beasts. It was the Nissan 240 RS. Mehta won two times at Kenyan Jamhuri rally with that car. In WRC, he was fourth at Rally New Zealand and sixth at Acropolis Rally in 1983, retiring with a broken engine at Safari Rally. Mehta also participated in one rally in an Audi Quattro A2, finishing fourth at Rally Argentina.
In 1984, Mehta was the Kenyan rally champion in a Nissan 240 RS. In WRC, his best result in 1984 was the third place at Rallye Cote d'Ivoire, sharing a Nissan 240S with Rob Combes. In 1985, Mehta brought Nissan 240 RS to the fourth place at Acropolis Rally and Rally Argentina.
In 1986, the last year of Group B cars, Mehta raced with Peugeot 205 T16 E2 at Safari Rally, finishing in the eighth place.
Four WRC starts in the last season of rallying
Mehta's last competitive season was 1987. He recorded four WRC starts that year, sharing a Nissan 200 SX with Yvonne Mehta in two events and with Rob Combes in two events.
Shekhar and Yvonne had their last rally together in the US, finishing 8th at Olympus Rally. Mehta's last WRC rally in a career was the Rallye Cote d'Ivoire, in which he and Rob Combes finished in the second place.
Working for FIA until his death
After his rally career, Mehta stayed involved into motorsport through various duties while working for FIA. He became president of the FIA Rally commission in 1997 and was re-appointed as interim president shortly before his death.