Tuthill Porsche has shared a preview of its upcoming documentary on their 2013 Kenyan Airways East African Safari Classic Rally, building and prepping a squad of 911s for he largest-ever private rally effort. This two-minute trailer shows the torture of Classic Safari: revered by drivers as the world’s toughest test of man and machine. Don’t miss the full length documentary, coming to the Tuthill Porsche Youtube channel on 10 February.
Welcome to issue 301 of HANDBRAKES & HAIRPINS, your favourite free source of rally entertainment!
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Evan Rothman (Editor) and Eva Kovkova (Photojournalist)
When Stig Blomqvist (Porsche 911) and Ian Duncan (Ford Capri V8) started the last day of the East African Safari Classic Rally this morning, they were separated by just nine seconds with Duncan possessing the miniscule advantage. On the first competitive section – a run back through the Taita Hills – almost incredibly these two drivers set equal fastest time with the stopwatch unable to separate them. Thus the gap remained nine seconds in the Kenyan driver’s favour.
But on the second section, the tide of fortune turned once again and this time it was in Blomqvist’s favour as he beat Duncan by forty-seven seconds and thus led the rally by thirty-eight seconds with just one competitive section before reaching the finish ramp at the Whitesands Hotel in Mombasa.
However, there was one major twist of fate still remaining in this extraordinary endurance rally for classic cars when Blomqvist punctured on the very last section and lost four minutes and the lead. Thus Ian Duncan and Amaar Slatch win the Safari Classic for the second time in four years to lift once again the hearts of their faithful Kenyan supporters. After this ongoing battle of seconds Duncan’s overall lead was 3 minutes 14 seconds over the Swedish crew. For Blomqvist, who said before the rally that he never had much luck on the Safari, this was a bitter blow when it looked as if Dame Fortune was finally going to smile on him in Africa.
A Porsche won the last Safari Classic in 2011 and this time the German marque almost filled half the entry list. Indeed, seven of them finished in the top ten places with only Duncan’s Ford Capri, Steve Perez’s Datsun 260Z and John Lloyd’s Ford Escort Mk2 to keep them company. In some ways, Duncan’s victory could be said to be a double victory for Africa since the Capri that he was driving was originally manufactured for Ford in South Africa.
Third place went to Belgians, Gérard Marcy and Stéphané Prevot driving – like Blomqvist and Parmander – a Tuthill prepared Porsche 911. Their was an unchallenged run to the podium and a complete justification of their intention, announced before the start, that they would be proceeding at their own pace. Just behind them, a strong charge from Onkar Rai and Baldev Chager in a Porsche 911 was held off by the Amigos Team Datsun 260Z of Steve Perez and John Millington with the British pair showing their mettle by beating the flying Kenyans on the last stage by over a minute and a half to preserve their fourth place overall.
Kenyan father-and-son crew, David and Alex Horsey, took sixth place in another Tuthill prepared Porsche 911 with Safari Rally lover John Lloyd in seventh in a Viking Ford Escort Mk2 with co-driver Gavin Laurence. The remainder of the top ten places were occupied by Porsche 911s with Gregoire de Mevius and Alain Guehennec setting themselves a steady pace on the last day of this eventful rally and taking eighth place in a BMA Porsche 911. Kenyan crew Manvir Baryan and Jaswinder Chana claimed ninth place with the Belgian crew of Patrick Van Heurck and Alain Lopez rounding up the overall top ten in a Tuthill Porsche 911.
The battle for victory of this nine-day epic rally has kept everyone holding their breath but the stamina and skill of all the crews must be celebrated. This year the East African Safari Classic crown remains in Kenya but there is no doubt that it will be just as hotly contested in two years time.
Quotes from the top ten crews
Car no. 3 Ian Duncan/Amaar Slatch Ford Capri V8 Perana
Last time we won (2009) we were leading on the last day by 9 minutes, this time it was 9 seconds so today was stressful! Just because of that pressure it was much more challenging this year.
Car no. 5 Stig Blomqvist/Staffan Parmander Porsche 911
Of course it could have been a better day. We had a puncture in the last section not too far from the end and had to change it. It’s been close for the victory on other rallies I’ve done but not on a long, hard event like this.
Car no. 6 Gérard Marcy/Stéphané Prevot Porsche 911
Every time we have done this event it is a different rally. It was tough two years ago because of the rain and this year it was really rough because there was no rain! We tried to keep to the same pace throughout and maybe we went a bit slower these last two days to save the car. We choose the sections where we know we can perform and push on those and then take it easier on the others. We’d be happy with sixth with the competitiveness of the field so third is a great result.
Car no. 7 Steve Perez/John Millington Datsun 260Z
I enjoyed today more than the whole of the rally. I pushed much harder today because those two Porsches were behind me and then I caught another Porsche on the last section. It’s been long and rough and I’m glad I’m here and very happy with fourth place.
Car no. 19 Onkar Rai / Baldev Chager Porsche 911
Today we had a really good first section and I think we made Steve (Perez) panic a bit. In the last section we got caught in the Horseys’ dust and lost some time. Let’s just say the gazelle got away from the local lions this time! It’s been very challenging and it took us about two days to get into the swing of things. I think local knowledge helped us but you have to have big balls to do this rally.
Car no. 8 David Horsey / Alex Horsey Porsche 911
Excellent! We finished off nice and slowly as we had no position to lose and no position to gain. I think the last section we may have held up Baldev (Chager). We’re very proud with how the car has run and how we’ve looked after the car. All we’ve done is lost the horn, bent a rear arm and suffered some fuel injection problems but those were sorted by the Tuthill team.
Car no. 11 John Lloyd / Gavin Laurence Ford Escort RS1800
I’m knackered and too old for this! Today we took it gently-gently. With the competition in this event I’m really pleased with how we did. It was a very, very strong competitive entry and a really good event.
Car no. 2 Gregoire de Mevius / Alain Guehennec Porsche 911
On the first section today we went quite fast I had some good times on the Taita Hills before but then we backed off because there is little point – the others were too far away to catch. The second section was quite nice but the third was really a bit rough and there was a big mud hole right in the middle that we managed to avoid. This car was amazing – if it had not been for that one drive shaft, I think we could have been on the podium
Car no. 29 Manvir Baryan / Jaswinder Chana Porsche 911
I’m very relieved to be here with the car immaculate – no bashes or dents – and we have had no problems today. In fact we’ve had very few problems all the way through. The only thing I feel about the rally is that it is perhaps a bit long – a sevenday event might be better and not keep us away from our families and businesses for so long!
Car no. 21 Patrick van Heurck / Alain Lopez Porsche 911
Today was fantastic, beautiful. We really enjoyed the drive down here but it was very hot! And the closer you got to the sea the hotter it got. The car is perfect and we had no problems today.
01) Ian Duncan/Amaar Slatch (Ford Capri) – 16hr 54m 46s
02) Stig Blomqvist/Staffan Parmander (Tuthill Porsche 911) 16hr 58m 00s
03) Gerard Marcy/Stephane Prevot (Tuthill Porsche 911) – 17hr 39m 45s
04) Steve Perez/John Millington (Datsun 260Z) 17hr 50m 49s
05) Onkar Rai/Baldev Chager (Porsche 911) – 17hr 54m 16s
06) David Horsey/Alex Horsey (Tuthill Porsche 911) – 18hr 04m 16s
07) John Lloyd/Adrian Cavenagh (Ford Escort RS1800) – 18hr 16m 18s
08) Gregoire De Mevius/Alain Guehennec (Porsche 911) – 18hr 32m 54s
09) Manvir Baryan/Jaswinder Chanda (Porsche 911) – 18hr 51m 44s
10) Patrick Van Heurck/Alain Lopes (Tuthill Porsche 911) – 18hr 57m 59s
Photos by mcklein.de
In the endurance struggle that is the East African Safari Classic Rally, with just one day and three competitive sections to go, the point is normally reached when one would expect to find competitors separated by whole fractions of an hour and looking to conserve their positions in the classification not to mention preserving their cars. For many competitors, this is the case but, up front, the situation is that the two leaders are separated by seconds and are still going for victory ‘hammer and tongs’.
Stig Blomqvist left Naivasha this morning in his Tuthill Porsche 911 with a scanty lead of fifty-nine seconds over Ian Duncan in his Ford Capri V8 and promptly made his mark by setting a fastest time on the first competitive section that was three minutes and three seconds faster than his pursuer who suffered a puncture.
But then Blomqvist’s luck took a downturn and he sustained a puncture and lost four minutes and eight seconds to Duncan who promptly moved back into the front with a lead of six seconds over the Swedish, ex-World Rally Champion. On the third and last competitive section of the day, it was Duncan who again had the advantage and extended his lead – by another three seconds to a total of nine seconds.
Behind these two, there have been few changes. The Horseys had been looking to make progress themselves on the man ahead of them, Steve Perez in the Amigos Datsun 260Z who had started the day more than six minutes ahead of them. However they are still over three minutes behind Perez and another Kenyan crew Rai and Chager have made up some time and are now only 16 seconds behind them.
By virtue of a sterling performance on the first section, Gregoire de Mevius put his BMA Porsche 911 back into the top ten by gobbling up the thirteen seconds that he lagged behind Phillipe van Heurck also Porsche mounted. He then led van Heurck by more then two and half minutes. He repeated the performance on the second section going two and half minutes quicker than Kenyan, Manvir Baryan in a Porsche 911 to grab ninth place overall, albeit by a mere five seconds. At the end of the day, he was promoted to eighth by Geoff Bell’s misfortunes in his Datsun 260Z who broke his differential on the third section. However de Mevius stands little hope of advancing further without major trouble striking those ahead of him since he lies almost twenty-three minutes behind John Lloyd in his Viking Autosport Ford Escort Mk2 in seventh place.
Friday is the last day of competition and see the remaining crews tackle three stages all very similar to the three that started this rally eight days ago last Thursday. These three sections total one hundred and ninety kilometres and there will be several prayers being offered up tonight by the surviving crews : freedom from mechanical problems, no punctures and a good clean run back to the Whitesands Hotel outside Mombasa. But all eyes will be on Duncan and Blomqvist as they struggle for victory in Ford Capri and Porsche 911 respectively.
Provisional Overall Classification:
01) Ian Duncan/Amaar Slatch (Ford Capri) – 15h 10m 06s
02) Stig Blomqvist/Staffan Parmander (Tuthill Porsche 911) – 15h 10m 15s
03) Gerard Marcy/Stephane Prevot (Tuthill Porsche 911) – 15h 39m 42s
04) Steve Perez/John Millington (Datsun 260Z) – 16h 01m 30s
05) David Horsey/Alex Horsey (Tuthill Porsche 911) – 16h 04m 39s
06) Onkar Rai/Baldev Chager (Porsche 911) – 16h 04m 55s
07) John Lloyd/Adrian Cavenagh (Ford Escort RS1800) – 16h 16m 42s
08) Gregoire De Mevius/Alain Guehennec (Porsche 911) 16h 41m 15s
09)Manvir Baryan/Jaswinder Chanda (Porsche 911) – 16h 45m 23s
10) Patrick Van Heurck/Alain Lopes (Tuthill Porsche 911) – 16h 51m 52s
Photos by mcklein.de
The fourth day of the Kenya Airways East African Safari Classic Rally took in four stages of which the shortest was a two-kilometre sprint round a cement quarry. This section was included to give spectators from the Nairobi area a chance to see the rally cars in action. But anyone thinking that Sunday was to be an easy day for the competitors soon had to think again as the first two competitive sections – one in Tanzania and one in Kenya – were both almost 120km each. And they succeeded in shaking up the leader board in no uncertain fashion.
On the first section, the fastest man was Richard Göransson in a Team Tidö Porsche 911 but after his earlier problems, he is classified in the mid-twenties and can only hope to make up a small part of his two and half hour deficit to the leaders. More interesting for the overall classification was that Gregoire de Mevius, driving a BMA Porsche 911, was second fastest. With slower times recorded by both Ian Duncan – the overnight leader in his Ford Capri V8 – and Stig Blomqvist in his Team Tidö Porsche 911, De Mevius thus took the lead. Blomqvist was in on-going trouble with his brakes which, despite several attempts by the Tuthill mechanics to tighten wheel bearings and play with the brake pedal box, was still suffering from ’knock-off’ that could leave the driver without brakes at the end of a straight. In one such place, they slid off and had to use the jack to get stones under the rear wheels to get down off the bank. For Duncan, the problem was the usual one of collecting a puncture and stopping to change it.
In the same section, Viking Motorsport lost its best-classified Ford Escort when Aziz Tejpar came to a halt with a broken strut that ripped out the rest of the front suspension. And the Porsche of Josef Jobst/Jürgen Bertl limped out on four cyinders after their Porsche had broken a valve in the engine that promptly went on to break two rocker arms. There was work too for the medical helicopter when Franz Wünderlich hit a drift hard enough with his Porsche 911 to damage his spine. He drove slowly out of the stage and was then spirited away to hospital in Nairobi with co-driver, Klaus-Peter Kristek.
However, De Mevius’s lead was not to last long since some 73km into the next competitive section the Belgian ace went off the road and could not regain the track thanks to a broken driveshaft. Fastest man here was Geoff Bell in the Amigos team Datsun 260Z who by virtue of that moved ahead of his team leader Steve Perez, also Datsun 260Z mounted, With good times also for the Porsches of Blomqvist and Gérard Marcy, Blomqvist regained the lead of this fascinating rally with a margin of nearly two minutes over Ian Duncan who had sustained no fewer than three punctures in this section. The more worrying news for the Kenyan driver was that Marcy was now only eleven seconds behind him in third place with Bell some two and a half minutes further back in fourth.
Better news for Kenyan drivers was that David and Alex Horsey had moved up in their Tuthill Porsche 911 to lie sixth behind Perez while Onkar Rai/Baldev Chager, also in a Tuthill Porsche 911 were now eighth. Apart from Alastair Cavenagh suffering the minor indignity of breaking a throttle cable on his Viking Ford Escort Mk2 and having to complete the section peering past co-driver, Carl Tundo who was sitting under the open bonnet operating the carburettors by hand, the spectator stage had no effect on the general classification. On the stage itself, the fastest man was Duncan who managed to take nine seconds away from Blomqvist’s lead and eight from Marcy just behind him.
On the fourth and last section of the day, fastest on the section was Baldev Chager in a Tuthill Porsche. The new Kenyan Rally Champion was quite happy with that performance, despite losing third gear. However many others, including the leaders, came out of that section complaining about the fact that there were errors in the road book caused by recent road works that had not been highlighted or corrected by the three-day car.
The situation at the end of the day is that provisionally Blomqvist leads Duncan by fifty seconds with Marcy just over eight minutes behind in third place. The gap to Bell in fourth place is just over thirteen minutes while Bell leads team mate Perez by seven minutes. New chargers in the top part of the field are Rai/Chager and Horsey/Horsey in sixth and seventh places with a mere twenty seconds between them and both lying about two minutes behind Perez. The eighth and ninth places are occupied by Phillip Vandromme’s Porsche 911 and John Lloyd’s Viking Escort almost six minutes further back but with only two seconds between these two cars on the provisional results. The tenth place goes currently to Andrew Siddall driving the third of the Amigos Team Datsun 260Zs, all of whom lie inside the top ten.
Monday is a rest day with time set aside for service on the cars and lighter things such as watching the animals in the fantastic Amboseli Park.
Quotes from the top six crews:
Car no. 5 – Stig Blomqvist/Staffan Parmander Porsche 911:
Our troubles on the first section were all down to the brakes. Something in the car is causing the discs to knock-back the pads in the callipers so when I come to a corner there is no pedal. On this particular place, trying to pump up the brakes at the last moment made the back hang out and before we knew it, we were perched on a bank with both rear wheels off the ground. Thus we couldn’t drive it off but had to jack up first one side and then the other to put stones underneath so that we could drive off. Must have cost us six, seven minutes but it was our good luck that Duncan punctured on that section. The brakes are still not right but we have had no punctures today or any other problem.
Car no. 3 – Ian Duncan/Amaar Slatch Ford Capri V8 Perana:
To have one puncture is unlucky – and that happened to us on the first section – but what can you say when you have three in one section ? That was us on the second section. And before you ask, we don’t carry three spare wheels so we had to drive out on the third puncture. No problems with the car but we will give it a good check over tomorrow. We were a bit disappointed by the road book in the last section as there were quite a few culverts where there was no mention of them from the three-day car notes.
Car no. 6 – Gérard Marcy/Stéphané Prevot Porsche 911:
Phew ! The road book for that last section was so bad. One place it said there was a ‘double caution’ ditch in 1.8 km but in fact it was a mistake and it was only 0.8 km. I tell you, if we had not had full speed at that point and flown over it, there would have been a lot of damage. It is bad things like that and dangerous for guys who may be going a little slower. The rest of the day was good though we did have one puncture where, when we had changed the wheel and let down the jack, we couldn’t restart as the handbrake would not release. The pin had jammed in the mechanism and it took a bit to persuade it to let go.
Car no. 4 – Geoff Bell/Tim Challen Datsun 260Z:
That counts as a good day. We did break a lower wishbone in the rear suspension about fifty kilometres into the first section and we had to drive slowly out for the remaining sixty kilometres. Then we got it fixed and made up for our woe by setting fastest time on the equally long second section.
Car no. 7 – Steve Perez/John Millington Datsun 260Z:
The story of our day is simple – no clutch ! We lost it just coming out of the second long stage onto the main Nairobi road to go and do the spectator section. It was really frightening going through all those villages and hoping that we didn’t have to stop and try to restart. The BRT mechanics tried to bleed the clutch operating system but it didn’t cure the problem so we went to the last section and prayed that we could start the engine in gear on the key. Thankfully it did catch and we got through. So if I say we are very pleased to be here, I really mean it !!
Car no. 19 – Onkar Rai/Baldev Chager Porsche 911:
Rai drove the first three sections today and Chager drove the last section.
In the first section we caught Geoff (Bell) and were stuck in his dust then in the second section we broke the accelerator cable so we used the hand throttle for a bit and then got a nudge from Geoff who had caught us and we stopped to make a proper change over to the second cable. Then in the last section our third gear was broken, but the driver (Chager) still managed to set fastest time.
From Chager: I’m loving it. I’m definitely going to be doing more Est African Safari Classics.
Photos by mcklein.de
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
With just over five weeks to go to the start of the Kenya Airways East African Safari Classic Rally the excitement is starting to build. The realisation that soon all sixty-plus rally cars and their associated spare parts, wheels and tyres will be arriving in Mombasa by sea and by road means that the crews who will drive them away from Mombasa on November 21st are beginning to feel the same keen anticipation that an astronaut feels when poised on top of a rocket at Cape Canaveral.
The frisson that the rally crews feel is generated by the fact that they are about to tackle a 4,100 kilometre (2,550 mile) route through some of the original sections used on this rally’s illustrious predecessor, the East African Safari Rally. For fifty years, the Safari was the gold standard for toughness on major international rallies. First held in 1953 to celebrate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, the last of these events was held in 2002. So popular was the concept that one year later it was re-born in ‘historic’ format as the Safari Classic and has run every other year since.
As in the five previous Safari Classics, the route will pass through the countryside regions of Kenya and Tanzania. It will take the competing cars from sea level on the Indian Ocean at Mombasa to altitudes of some 2,600 metres (8,500 feet) high above the Great Rift Valley in Central Kenya. It will pass under the legendary slopes of Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro and visit several of the region’s famous game reserves and national parks. During the nine-day rally, there is one day of rest and recuperation in the middle where it is permitted to service the cars for an extended six-hour period and this takes place at the Ol Tukai Lodge in the Amboseli national park. Typical of the event, for both nights that the rally is there the park rangers have to provide ‘security’ in the service area to prevent inquisitive elephants from ‘playing’ with the rally cars.
Just over sixty crews from all over the world have entered the 2013 Kenya Airways Safari Classic and the cars that they are driving are equally diverse. They all have to be of a model that was manufactured before 1979 and yet comply with all modern safety standards. There is a preponderance of Porsche 911s in the entry this time, probably indicative of the fact that the last Safari Classic in 2011 was won by ex-World Rally Champion, Björn Waldegård, in a Porsche 911. He came though various tribulations on an event that was very largely wet and muddy but he may find it even more difficult this year as he will find another ex-World Rally Champion and fellow Swede, Stig Blomqvist also in a Porsche 911.
With no fewer that thirty-one Porsche 911s entered and the start area at the Sarova Whitesands Hotel looking a little like the daily output from the Stuttgart factory’s production line, one might be forgiven for wondering who might be able take the fight to the Porsches. There is no difficulty there since six-times Kenyan Rally Champion and Safari Classic winner in 2009, Ian Duncan, is returning with his Ford Capri V6 while another Kenyan ex-champion, Alistair Cavenagh, heads a list of drivers who are behind the wheel of Ford Escort RSs similar to those cars that won the original Safari Rally in 1972 and 1977.
A car that made its name winning the Safari Rally in 1971 and 1973 was the Datsun 240Z and there is a strong group of drivers from within Kenya and outside who are driving Datsun 260Zs – the same model that won the first two Safari Classics in 2003 and 2005 – on this year’s event. Principal amongst these are Steve Perez from the UK who finished third in 2009 behind Duncan and Waldegård while alongside him in the Kick Energy Team, he has Geoff Bell from South Africa who finished second in 2011 with his 260Z, finishing behind Waldegård after leading for much of the last leg of the rally.
Adding variety to the entry list, there are Mazda RX7s, Datsun 1800s, Ford Escort Mk1s, and then the true individualists who are driving cars like a Mercedes 220SE, a Chevrolet Corvette and a Ferrari 308 Dino GT4. If there was one thing that has been learned in past years and on all the Safaris that preceded the Safari Classic, on a rally that takes in such large sections of un-metalled road in areas populated with wild animals and where climatic conditions are categorised as ‘subject to change’, any one of the sixty or so cars that leaves Mombasa can have a chance of success.
All it needs is good preparation, a steady hand and an appetizing portion of luck.
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