A day of ups and down on the East African Safari Classic

The first full day that the Kenya Airways East African Safari Classic 2013 spent in Tanzania has proved to be full of incident with some crews suffering enormous setbacks and others progressing smoothly with few problems. After briefly losing his lead to Stig Blomqvist, Ian Duncan again proved to be a steady and fast performer in his Ford Capri V8 Perana and finished the day fifteen seconds ahead of his Swedish rival in the team Tidö Porsche 911.

On the first competitive section this morning, the winners of the 2007 and 2011 Safari Classic rallies crashed out in spectacular fashion. Björn Waldegård, co-driven by his son, Mathias, took a double concrete drift – a dry river crossing – a little too fast not far after the start of the 160 km section. The rear of their Team Tidö Porsche 911 kicked into the air and it flipped. The car rolled once completely and then did another half roll to wind up on the co-driver’s side. Both occupants were shaken but not visibly hurt. However, as a precaution, after their return to Arusha in the event’s medical helicopter they were flown on to Nairobi for a thorough check over in hospital. When they retired, the Waldegårds were lying third overall.

Fastest man over that long opening section was Bernard Munster in his BMA Porsche 911, half a minute quicker than Stig Blomqvist at the wheel of a Team Tidö Porsche 911. In his turn, Blomqvist was a minute and half quicker than the overnight leader, Ian Duncan in his Ford Capri, who had to stop to change a rear wheel puncture. Thus after the section, Blomqvist was the new leader by thirty seconds from Duncan with Munster now third overall just over four minutes behind Blomqvist. All this was despite Blomqvist having gearbox problems in the section, losing third gear first of all and then finishing with just second and fourth gears working. Close behind Munster were two more Porsches, the BMA car of Gregoire de Mevius and the Tuthill car of Gérard Marcy. All these three Porsches were covered by a mere forty seconds over the section with the Amigos Team Datsun 260Z of Geoff Bell a full four and half-minutes behind Marcy. Bell’s problem was that his Datsun 260Z broke a drive shaft some five kilometres from the end and he had to crawl out at much reduced speed losing maybe a minute and a half as a result. The Kronos Vintage Porsche of Jean-Pierre Mondron broke a main bolt in its rear suspension and was marooned for the rest of the day some 60 km from the end of the section. Brake problems in the Amigos Team Datsun 260Z of Steve Perez were the plague of his day. This started during this first section and continued throughout the day despite a bit of DIY brake bleeding from co-driver, John Millington.

The second competitive section, run over roads out to the west of Lake Manyara, saw Gregoire de Mevius set the first of two consecutive fastest times on sections that were more ‘European’ than the first one. Duncan, running first on the road, was troubled with traffic on the first of these two sections but later numbers – unsurprisingly – reported fewer problems. Bernard Munster discovered that he had a problem with his Porsche’s clutch not disengaging after the first section so had it changed at service. Unbeknown to him, a stone had already damaged a rear brake pipe and twenty kilometres into the second competitive section of the day, he found that the brake pedal was going down and soon he only had front brakes. This was to continue on the third and final section of the day when he locked up a front wheel, got the front of the car into a ditch with the rear wheels off the ground and had to use a manual winch to get the car out. All this dropped him down to twelfth place overall.

With so many people having problems of one kind or another, those who had no problems profited considerably. Perhaps the best example is Aziz Tejpar in his Viking Escort Mk2 who is now lying seventh overall after a day that he described as ‘generally very enjoyable’ and during which he drove most of the way on the same Dunlop tyres from the day before. Some twenty seconds behind him are the Kenyan pair of Onkar Rai and Baldev Chager in a Porsche 911. Chager, the new Kenyan Rally Champion for 2013 continues to co-drive but will get into the driving seat during the last four days of the rally. Rounding up the top ten are two more Porsche 911s, the Kronos Vintage car of Phillip Vandromme and the Tuthill car driven by local father and son team, David and Alex Horsey.

As the competitive distance grows, the gaps between the front-runners are beginning to open up with twenty-six minutes now covering the top six cars in general classification. But in the individual scraps for places, there is still plenty that could happen. With four competitive sections, tomorrow has the longest competitive distance out of the eight days at nearly 325 km. The route will take the cars through early Sunday morning Arusha traffic on a clockwise circumnavigation of Mount Kilimanjaro and crossing back into Kenya before entering the Amboseli Game Park for an overnight stop plus ‘day of rest’ – and service for the cars – at the Ol Tukai Lodge.

Quotes from the top six crews:
Car no. 3 – Ian Duncan/Amaar Slatch Ford Capri V8 Perana:
No real problems to report really. We had a rear left puncture about a third of the way into that first section and stopped to change it. The only other thing was that, being first car on the road, we did find quite a bit of traffic on the second section but managed to avoid any real confrontations.

Car no. 5 – Stig Blomqvist/Staffan Parmander Porsche 911:
The gearbox started to feel funny on the first section and after a while we lost third gear. That wasn’t so bad but then we lost everything but second and fourth gears so our speed dropped off a bit towards the end. Anyway, we were still second fastest and the Tuthill guys changed the box after the section. To tell the truth, I think our suspension is maybe too firm as we find it hard to get good traction from the rear tyres. Not normal for a Porsche!

Car no. 2 – Gregoire de Mevius/Alain Guehennec Porsche 911:
When we saw Björn and Mathias standing outside their car waving OK we were relieved but the thought came to me ‘If that can happen to Björn, I had better be careful’. Thus we drove very steadily for the rest of that section. Perhaps we lost some one and half minutes but it felt better that way. But the last two sections were perfect for us so we had a bit of a go and got those fastest times so that we are now within two minutes of Stig. And our BMA car feels in really good condition – so we try to keep it that way.

Car no. 6 – Gérard Marcy/Stéphané Prevot Porsche 911:
No, we have not speeded up ! We are going at our same pace and keeping our head. No problem with the car and it is running perfectly. There are times when I would like to have that extra power and torque from the engine that most of the other serious Porsches have but maybe it is best this way.

Car no. 7 – Steve Perez/John Millington Datsun 260Z:
Rather a difficult day thanks to our brakes. We lost the pedal first about forty-five kilometres from the end of the first section. When we got to service, there was no time to try and bleed them to see if we could cure the problem as it turned out that we had broken an engine mount and that demanded priority. So we had to tackle the second section with them still much the same. John [Millington] tried to bleed them himself between the second and third sections but they did not improve much. On the second section, we nearly hit a bus – it was one of those with its chassis twisted so that the front of the bus is where it ought to be but the rear is on your side of the road. Somehow we missed it!

Photos by mcklein.de

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