Press Release: Thursday, 24th November 2011
AMBOSELI – OL TUKAI LODGE – THE DAY OF "REST”
The Amboseli National Park is renowned for its lions but this morning is was the roar of another beast that broke the morning’s tranquillity. At eight ‘o’ clock the rally cars of the Kenya Airways East African Safari Classic were taken out of parc fermé to go into service. The fifth day of the rally has traditionally been a rest day for the drivers and co-drivers but not for the service crews. Nevertheless there were several drivers pacing around the service park and some were working on the cars.
Amongst them was Grégoire de Mévius whose Porsche 911 lost its second overall place yesterday due to a broken front suspension on the first section. “That’s life,” he said. “Half way through the section we went into a mud hole and the car went sideways but I didn’t feel anything in the steering and then I felt the problem afterwards. I think the mud might have exacerbated previous damage incurred earlier in the rally. We managed to complete the third section but didn’t do the second section, which is a shame. But luckily it will mean that I will have to come back to do the East African Safari Classic for another year so that I can get on the podium!” The former FIA WRC Production Car Champion competed once on the original Safari in 1989 in a Group N Mazda 323 but didn’t finish. He is determined to finish the Classic rally and has only fallen down to 15th place overall so still has a chance of making the top ten or even the top five. Current leader Bjorn Waldegård, who had been battling for the lead with de Mévius for the first three days of the rally was also in the service park and commiserated with the Belgian driver. “It’s a real shame,” said Waldegård. “We were having a good fight and now it will be difficult to know how to pace the driving. Forty minutes is a bit too much of a lead at this stage in the event! But the roads will get harder as we go up towards Lake Baringo.”
Waldegård’s Porsche 911 has been running faultlessly throughout the rally but was being fitted with a new set of shocks to set it up for the next four days, as well as having a thorough check by the Tuthill Porsche team. Meanwhile the service crew of the second placed Datsun 260Z of Geoff Bell had found problems with the rear control arm – one of mounting points was broken whilst the other was badly cracked. The third-placed Porsche 911 of Steven Funk was also having a thorough check over by the Tuthill Porsche team, meanwhile the fourth-placed Porsche 911 of Gérard Marcy and Stéphane Prévot was back to its original white colour after all the mud had been removed from its hour-long wallow in a mud hole in yesterday’s final section. As a result Marcy has dropped from second place to fourth place overall. The fifth placed Ford Escort of Stig Blomqvist was also having a thorough check by the Viking Motorsport team, which included welding a small crack on the axle.
Current Kenyan Rally Champion, Ian Duncan, was one of the drivers working on his car, which involved changing the clutch on the Ford Capri. Tomorrow the rally will be heading up to Naivasha, which is Duncan’s home ground, but he was sceptical that his local knowledge gained him an advantage. “I think too much knowledge can be a bad thing,” he said. “In that second section yesterday I knew the road well but I also knew how bad it can get in certain conditions so I backed off. Sometimes I think it might be better to have less knowledge about the terrain.” Yesterday Duncan moved up ten places from 22nd to 12th overall, after suffering problems on the third day. Former Kenyan Rally Champion Alastair Cavenagh is in 16th place alongside Carl Tundo in their Ford Escort whilst another former Kenyan Rally Champion Patrick Njiru will be taking the place of Travis Pastrana in a Porsche 911 for the next four days and currently lies in 19th place.
A number of crews came in late last night, including Aaron Banks and Tim Chesser in their Ford Escort and Jayant Shah and Lofty Drews in their Datsun 260Z who both drove the last section in the dark. Paolo Faldini and Nicolas Beech were another late arrival. The Italian driver, who was lying 15th after the third day, unfortunately hit problems in the first section when they broke the suspension. “Apparently it was a unique break in the arm,” said Faldini. “So I’m very proud of it! But it’s a shame as we dropped right down the field and it’s not so much fun anymore. ” Meanwhile, after missing the last three days of the rally, the Corsican father-and-son team of Louis and Pierre Antonini have flown in a new distributor from Dubai and will be continuing tomorrow.
With another four days to go, tomorrow the rally will head north to Navaisha and then take in stages around Lake Baringo on Saturday before heading back towards Mombasa. At this point the forty minute gaps between the top three may seem large, but it only takes a few problems for everything to change again.
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