Press Release: Saturday, 19th November 2011
MOMBASA - THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
This year celebrates the tenth anniversary of the first East African Safari Classic rally and it looks set to be a classic event in every sense of the word. This was reflected in the turnout and warm reception at the ceremonial start under the tusks in Moi Avenue, Mombasa this afternoon.
Indeed the bi-annual East African Safari Classic is so popular that many competitors just keep coming back for more, such as the Belgian driver Albert Michels and the Kenyan co-driver Crispin Sassoon who have competed on all five events. It seems the Safari bug is one disease for which there’s no antidote.
The last of the cars were scrutineered this morning and the number on the start list currently remains at forty-six with no further withdrawals. Porsche 911s are in the majority with 21 of the crews driving the Stuttgart marque, whilst Fords make up fourteen of the cars and a further nine crews are driving Datsuns. The remaining two rather more “alternative” cars are a Mercedes 450SLC and a Colt Lancer GSR. Top-seeded crew, Ian Duncan and Amaar Slatch, have swapped the Ford Mustang in which they won the last East African Safari Classic for a four-speed Ford Capri. Preparation on the car started before the last event in 2009, but it has yet to be driven in anger on a rally. Duncan, who was recently crowned Kenyan Rally Champion for the sixth time, is acutely aware of the strong competition in this year’s event. “It’s going to be difficult,” he said. “There are some really competitive crews on my tail and some very well prepared cars.” Indeed chief scrutineer Karl-Heinz Goldstein has remarked on the high level of professional preparation of the crews this year. “There were no major issues at scrutineering,” he commented.
However the second-seeded Porsche 911 of Gérard Marcy and Stéphane Prévot was sounding a little unwell and not idling properly at low revs just before scrutineering but they hope to have it fixed by tomorrow. Gregoire De Mevius and Alain Guehennec are third on the start list in their Kronos Vintage prepared Porsche 911 followed by former World Rally Champion Björn Waldegård who seems very satisfied with his Tuthill-prepared Porsche. “We tested the car in Morocco earlier this year,” he said. “And we’ve made a number of changes on the basis of this…But the real test will be on the event itself.”
Behind him on the start list is another Swedish hero and former World Rally Champion in the form of Stig Blomqvist. He will be co-driven by Venezuelan Ana Goni who co-drove on the East African Safari Classic with Blomqvist in 2005 and 2007 and with Michèle Mouton in 2003. She is clearly another competitor who has been bitten by the Safari bug. “I’m really looking forward to the event,” said Goni. “But it looks set to be one of the hardest yet. Not only in terms of the competition but also in terms of the conditions. I’ve heard there has been a fair amount of rain in some places on the route.” For another female co-driver, Fabrizia Pons, this is her first time on the classic version of the event although she has competed in many Safaris during the 80’s and 90’s, most famously with rally legend Michèle Mouton. If co-driving on the Safari wasn’t hard enough, she has another challenge to face as she has two drivers - Travis Pastrana and Patrick Njiru – who will be swapping half way through the event. “I’m very happy to be back on the Safari,” she said.
The ceremonial start went smoothly except for the crew of Jayant Shah and Lofty Drews. Having changed the gearbox on their Datsun 260Z earlier, the clutch failed on the start line which means they will already have incurred penalties for lateness when they start tomorrow. The drivers are attending their briefing back at the Sarova Whitesands Hotel in Mombasa before heading off for the welcome cocktail party. The Kenya Airways non-executive Chairman, Evanson Mwaniki, will be giving a speech as well as Clerk of the Course Surinder Thatti. The event patron Peter Hughes will also be attending, who has competed in 14 Safari rallies, including a win in 1964 in a Cortina GT. It seems that nearly fifty years on from Hughes’ win, the enduring attraction of the Safari rally is set to continue.
Tomorrow the rally will start at 6.00 am from Mombasa with the route heading west and taking in three competitive sections, including one in the foothills of the Taita Hills near Voi. Due to the weather the first competitive section has been re-routed but the timings remain the same. The night halt for the crews will be at Kilima Safari Camp in the eastern part of the Amboseli National Park.
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