Since its inception in 1953, the Safari Rally’s reputation as one of the toughest events on the international rally circuit gave it great kudos, until governance woes removed it in 2003 from the World Rally Championship roster.The East African Safari Classic rally, set up that same year, has taken its place as the wildest, most gruelling rally around.
Almost double the number of days and eschewing technological advances of later years, the Classic allows only cars built before 1978 to enter, and returns to the harder conditions and purer driving spirit contained in the early years of the original Safari Rally. It is, however, longer at nine days rather than the original five (the modern rally stops for night halts). Cars have limited back up during their tough journey. Here are a few snippets of information about this classic motor event flagging off tomorrow in Mombasa.
1. The rally covers 3330 kms going through Kenya and Tanzania, with long driving stages and minimal back up. The longest stage is 155kms on day seven near Arusha.
2. It’s an open road rally, meaning the competitive sections aren’t closed off to the public. Goats, wandering villagers and wildlife are some of the hazards that rally cars need to be aware of as they power along.
3. Some 53 cars will be taking part in 2015. With staff, crew and back up, it means the EASC roadshow is some 500 strong as it moves through Kenya and Tanzania.
4. There is a serious preponderance of Porsche 911’s, with 21 of the German sports cars starting this year. Datsuns are the next most popular vehicle with 13 entered, Among other nostalgia filled cars, are 11 Ford Escorts, a couple of Triumphs, a Ferrari, a Mercedes 450 SLC, a trusty Peugeot 504 and a Trabant.
5. The oldest driver is German Bernhard Kessel, 77 driving a Porsche 911. He is closely followed by Jayant Shah, 73 from Tanzania, also driving a Porsche 911.
6. Jürgen Bertl, Team Manager for Bernhard Kessel has taken part in 27 Safari rallies over a period of 43 years as both team manger and competitor making him a true veteran of the event.
7. There are many faithful repeat entrants. Overseas competitors like UK’s Nick Mason, Sweden’s Stig Blomqvist and Belgium’s Gerard Marcy have all done more than three Safari Classic rallies. From homegrown talent Carl Tundo, Ian Duncan, Alistair Cavenagh, Jonathan Savage, Marzio Kravas, Jonathan Somen, Aslam Khan, Ramesh Vishram, Kishen Bhanderi are all long-term rally faithfuls.
8. A team of motorsport medics, led by UK based emergency medicine and trauma doctor Harjinder Chaggar monitors this tough challenging event, circulating above the rally cars in helicopters, and travelling the roads in ambulances. Issues they have dealt with in the past range from spinal injuries to heatstroke, burns to heart attack – all in remote and hostile environments.
9. The country in which most terrain is driven is Kenya, so local heroes are a big thing. On the last rally, Ian Duncan clinched his second EASC win in a grueling final in which he and Stig Blomqvist were only 19 seconds apart in the final stages of the rally. Blomqvist’s puncture on the last competitive section led to his loss and Duncan’s gain.
10. Clerk of the Course Richard Leeke celebrates 50 years in motorsports this year, having taken part in his first rally aged 15 in South Africa.
11. This year’s rally introduces the ‘screamer”. Never before used on the EASC, this Proximity Warning Device is particularly useful in dusty conditions. Installed in each car, it flashes a green light when two cars come within 200m of each other. If the front car doesn’t yield to the faster car behind, a button can be pressed which changes the light to a flashing red and emits a high pitched siren compelling the slower car to yield with safety.
12. There are plenty drivers supporting good causes this year. Race4Health cars 3 Blomqvist, 6 Goransson, 15 Von Schinkel, 16 Johansson and 18 Samuelsson are back again raising funds for a host of charities including Alzheimer’s and Project Playground. Car 48 Chauhan is saving rhinos, as is Car 52 Lakhani. The Tundo’s in cars 5 and 30 have focused on Movember and a refuge for abused girls in Nakuru. Car 7 Bell is supporting an orphanage in Zambia. Car 17 Roman, is giving to Unicef, Car 26 Shah, donates to underprivileged kids in Tanzania and car 29 Mason continues to support Osiligi orphanage. More details of how to donate can be found in the EASC 2015 souvenir program.