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Press Release:  Saturday, 26th November 2011

NAIVASHA – SOPA LODGE – HERE COMES THE RAIN AGAIN!

Geoff Bell and Tim Challen have kept hold of the lead of the Kenya Airways East African Safari Classic Rally by a mere seven seconds on the seventh day of this exciting marathon event. Having lost their lead yesterday, Bjorn and Mathias Waldegård were hoping to close the six and half minute gap between their Porsche 911 and the Datsun 260Z of new leaders Geoff Bell and Tim Challen. On the first section the Waldegårds narrowed the gap to 4 minutes 47 seconds but, with the second section cancelled, this left only the last section to gain more time. And time they did gain, closing the gap to just seven seconds.

Last night, as the crews of the Kenya Airways East African Safari Rally slept soundly in their beds, the rain continued to fall, causing more wet and slippery conditions on the seventh day. The first section of the day proved relatively undramatic compared to the flash floods of yesterday’s first section. Nearly 70 km long, the section was a mix of flowing road and twisty rocky sections, which seemed to suit the overall third placed Porsche 911 of Gérard Marcy and Stéphane Prévot who set fastest time by nearly 50 seconds. Another Belgian driver set second fastest time in the form of previous rally leader Grégoire de Mévius alongside Alain Guehennec in their Porsche 911. Third fastest was Waldegård, whilst Kenyan rally champion Ian Duncan got stuck in a ditch and was nearly eleven minutes slower than the fastest time set on this section. Meanwhile former Kenyan rally champion Patrick Njiru had a problem with the rear suspension near the end of the first section and returned to parc fermé to get it fixed, not starting any more sections for the day. “We are not lucky,” he said. “Yesterday we had one good section and we thought that was the beginning of our rally but we only managed one section today.”

Due to wet and muddy conditions the second section of the day that goes around Lake Baringo was cancelled and the cars were held at Lake Bogoria Hotel before heading off to the third section. This was news that was probably not welcomed by Waldegård who would want as many competitive kilometres to make up the 41 minutes he lost yesterday when fixing his roll cage on a road section after a collision. “When you are fighting you want all the sections you can get,” he said.

Undoubtedly Waldegård hoped to gain time on the third section, which was a classic Safari stage that passed over God’s Bridge - a narrow man-made passage with thousand metre drops either side. With the rain still coming down the section was again very wet and slippery and it was de Mévius who set fastest time by over two minutes from Waldegård with Marcy setting third fastest. “That was the hardest section I have driven so far,” said de Mévius . “But we tried to strike a balance of safety and speed.” De Mévius is now in sixth place, which is impressive considering he was in fifteenth position after the rest day on day five. Waldegård broke the top mount of a rear shock half way through the section and also had problems with the electrics on the last section. “I think we must have lost about one and half to two minutes,” he said. Rally leader Bell was 6 minutes 43 seconds slower than de Mévius’ fastest time, which meant his lead had now diminished to only 7 seconds from Waldegård. Bell, who yesterday took 25 copies of the results to frame, had been certain that Waldegård would snatch the lead back today but it seems he will need to make more copies of the results this evening as he is still leading. “I’m not even trying to catch the “god” (Waldegård) or keep him behind me,” said Bell. “But it didn’t help that I had a major spin on that last section.” Problems hit the later crews on the final section when an army truck slid sideways and blocked the route so that many had to be diverted. Those who were diverted and those who spent a long time getting around the truck were given notional times for the section.
Marcy who has been setting good times today is still in third place overall but over an hour behind Waldegård. Stig Blomqvist and Ana Goni are in fourth place, only seven minutes behind Marcy. Blomqvist suffered a two minute penalty yesterday when his car was late out of service after work was done on the clutch. Unfortunately his Ford Escort suffered clutch problems again on the last section today. Steve Perez and Staffan Parmander are now in fifth place in their Datsun 260Z despite losing time stuck in ditches on the last section.

Tomorrow is the penultimate day of the rally. Heading south-east to Voi there are four sections, including a short two and a half kilometre spectator section near Nairobi. If the popularity of the website and Rally Management Systems tracking are anything to go by, then the section should be packed with rally fans.

QUOTES FROM THE CREWS

1   Ian Duncan / Amaar Slatch  (Ford Capri)
“On the first section we went off in a ditch and were stuck for some time – probably losing about ten minutes. The last section was very long and very slippery.”

2   Gérard Marcy / Stéphane Prévot (Porsche 911)
“We set the fastest time on the first section this morning because it wasn’t so reliant on power as it wasn’t so mountainous. The second section was very very difficult for us – there must have been at least fifty hairpins and we had to be in first gear, which is not good for us as we still have a problem with power. We’re just going to drive gently to the finish.”

3   Grégoire de Mévius / Alain Guehennec (Porsche 911)
“A great day. The last section was one of the toughest of the rally – so slippery and when we were driving fast the car was all over the place. If you lose it you just don’t know where you’ll end up. I even had congratulations from my co-driver, which is not something that happens everyday. After the first section we re-cut the tyres and that probably helped. We were driving fast but it was also a bit of survival, especially as the suspension is a bit collapsed on the right hand side.”

4   Bjorn Waldegård / Mathias Waldegård (Porsche 911)
“It was a good day – extremely slippery with light rain all day. We did quite well on the last section but should have taken more time from Geoff (Bell). Half way through we broke the top mount of a rear shock and then the main electric switch went off for no reason. Mathias got out the car but then it just went on again – we must have lost about one and a half to two minutes.”

5   Stig Blomqvist / Ana Goni (Ford Escort RS 1800)
“Today was not so good.”
From Ana Goni: “We’re very tired. We had no clutch on the last section or on the road section coming back to Naivasha.”

6   Steve Perez / Staffan Parmander (Datsun 260Z)
“That was a tough day. On the last section we went into a ditch and, after we got out, the nuts were loose on the rear left wheel and the steering was funny and we went into another ditch. Then as we were just managing to get out and Andrew (Sidall) came along, hit us and pushed us back into the ditch and then they went into another ditch himself! We lost a lot of time in those ditches!”

7   Geoff Bell / Tim Challen (Datsun 260Z)
“Today was fine but that last section was tough. We’re not even trying to catch up with the “god” (Waldegård) or keep him behind us. We let Stig go past in that last section and then followed him for four kilometres and I made the mistake of thinking I was driving an Escort as we had a massive spin!”

8   Alastair Cavenagh / Carl Tundo (Ford Escort Mark 2)
The crew are not continuing due to problems with their engine.

9   Andrew Siddall / Mike Borissow (Datsun 260 Z)
“The first section was an absolute nightmare - we had no windscreen wipers. In the last section we were going really really nicely then saw Perez in the middle of the track and we hit him causing us a rubbish time.”

10   John Lloyd / Adrian Cavenagh (Ford Escort RS 1800)
“There was lots of water. It was very muddy and very rough but we didn’t get stuck while the others did. We had a good day and the sections weren’t too hard.”

11   Aziz Tejpar / Andy Nagi (Ford Escort Mark 1)
“Today was very hectic. We took it easy on section one but then we had overheating problems that slowed us down. The sections were very, very rough. There were cars stuck all over the place on section two.”

12   Simon Tysoe / Imran Khan (Ford Escort Mark 1)
“The first section was good. But on the second a Porsche went into our back and we got stuck in the mud. Everyone got stuck there.”

14   Steven Funk / Andrew Doig (Porsche 911)
“Mud again! We had a good smooth run on the first section but broke the torsion bar on the road section afterwards and got 29 road penalties. We managed to finish the last section and went past the army truck. That section was unbelievably difficult and once again we got in behind traffic so the road was already chewed up. We got the first dings on the car today from bouncing off the ditches.”

15   Jürgen Bertl / Bernhard Ettel (Porsche 911)
The Porsche slipped off the road into a ditch on today’s third stage and arrived in parc ferme very late.

17   Steve Troman / Michael Nutt (Porsche 911)

18   Aslam Khan / Arshad Khan (Porsche 911)
“The last section was very wet – we passed three cars. Then right at the end we lost our windscreen wipers and so we went off. We had no reverse gear so we couldn’t get out. Finally we got going but I had to leave my co-driver behind as if I stopped I would get stuck again – he had to walk for quite a while to catch up! Then slowly we started losing gears – fifth and fourth - and we had to drive all the way out in third.”

19   Jean-Pierre Mondron / Nicolas Gilsoul (Porsche 911)
“Fine but very very rough and slippery, especially the last section so we went cautiously and passed everything without a problem.”

20   Louis Antonini / Pierre Antonini (Porsche 911)
Yesterday the Antoninis got stuck in mud in the last section and when their service crew arrived to help they also got stuck. Both competitors and service spent the night there before coming into Naivasha this morning.

21   Jayant Shah / Lofty Drews (Datsun 260 Z)
“We had a bit of fun: got stuck and spent a bit of money on getting pushed. Did 50 km and then. I can feel a Tusker coming on.”

22   Richard Jackson / Preston Ayres (Porsche 911)

23   Thierry de Latre de Bosqueau / Eric Werner (Porsche 911)
“An easy day. The first section was great fun – slippery with lots of river crossings. In the last section we were going well and then we dropped into a ditch with rocks. The car is still in one piece which makes me happy and we’re back in the daylight.”

24   Patrick Njiru / Fabrizia Pons (Porsche 911)
“We are not lucky. The whole rear suspension ripped off from the body about 10 km from the finish of the first section. It just went down. We were driving very smoothly so I think it’s from previous damage. But we will fix it and start again tomorrow.”

25   Mark Bentley / Edward Bentley (Ford Escort Mark 1)
“We had a great first section and then got into the second and had a complete adventure. We’ve had starter motor problems but we’ll get that fixed.”
From co-driver: “I must have been out of the car about eight times and paid about $100 to the locals in push money.”

26   Marzio Kravos / Renzo Bernardi (Mercedes 450 SLC)
“The first section was no problem and in the last section we overtook five people but then diverted it so it was a real shame as we were doing well in that section.”

27   Rommy Bamrah / Harvey Jutley (Datsun 260Z)
“Today was really wet. It is a shame that we could not complete the third section. We did very well there. Now we hope for no rain tomorrow.”

28   Nick Mason / Alex Horsey (Datsun 260Z)
“We overtook nine cars in the last section and then came across the truck that had fallen over. It was too dangerous and very slippery. It was disappointing because we were doing alright on that section.”

29   Albert Michiels / Patrick de Coninck (Porsche 911)
“No problem on the first section. Unfortunately we only did about two thirds of the last section – it was fantastic, very very slippery. We are learning a new way of life.”

31   Jacques Walens / Thierry Lacroix (Porsche 911)
“Yesterday the car got very wet and the electrical network is pfffff. Perhaps we could use it as a boat on the lake now! This rally is a real learning curve but we will be starting again tomorrow.”

32   Kulwinder Sandhu / Harpal Singh Sudle (Datsun P710)
“Sections one was slippery and wet. We had a puncture and a broken rim because we hit a rock. Section three was really boggy. You just could not climb up it. A proper safari day.”

33   Richard Arrowsmith / Norris Midwood (Ford Escort Mark 1)
“We got on well on the first section and did well. We were disappointed in the last section as we worked hard to get up the slippery hill and got stuck a couple of times and then there was an army truck across the road. It was a dry weather section on a wet day. We saw Eyland, Buck, Heron, Blacksmith Plover, Malibu Stork and lots of lilac jacaranda.”

34   Jac Nellemann / Joseph Huber (Porsche 911)
“It was unbelievable! The uphill bit of section two was a challenge but I cannot understand how you can drive that downhill. Even on the flat bits our car was moving in all directions. Ice was nothing compared to this.”

35   Minesh Rathod / Sachin Sumaria  (Colt Lancer GSR)

36   Gunther Kronseder / Gerd Petzold (Mercedes 450SLC)

37   Phillipe Vandromme / Frederic Vivier (Porsche 911)
“The last section was very difficult – the most difficult of the rally. It was the first time I had problems today – we got stuck in the mud about four times.”

38   Jonathan Somen  / Richard Hechle (Ford Escort Mark 2)

39   Ramesh Vishram / Atul Kochhar (Ford Escort Mark 2)
“In the first section we broke a shock absorber after 10 km where there were massive rocks and we broke the front left control arm. We had to wait service then we were late for the last section.”

40   Arron Banks  / Tim Chesser (Ford Escort Mark 1)

42   Josef Jobst  / Uwe Kurtzenberger (Porsche 911)
“This was just crazy! On section two, we were one of the crews which went past the lorry and we had to lift the car to get past because the whole road was blocked.”

43   Peter Stoehr / Crispin Sassoon (Datsun 1600SSS)
We had a puncture and had to be pushed uphill on the last section. We had 20 cm of water in the car – it was like bath tub. Crispin was standing on the boot to get us up the hill.”

44   Kurt A Engelhorn / Johan Nel (Ford Escort Mark 1)

45   Franz Wunderlich  / Klaus-Peter Kristek (Porsche 911 )
“Section one was normal, just slippery like everything. Section two was a disaster. By far the toughest stage in the whole rally. We could not do more than 5 kph going uphill!”

46   Jean-Michel Martin / Ronain Martin (Ford Escort Mark 2)
“It was a very long day. We lost our windscreen wipers in section one and with ropes we managed to keep a small area of the windscreen clear. The roads were terrible. We are happy that we arrived in one piece.”

47   Bernhard Kessel / Ronny Kessel (Porsche 911)

48   Paolo Faldini / Nicolas Beech (Porsche 911)

51   Samira Khan / Anita Irwin (Ford Escort Mark 1)
The ladies team stopped on section three with an alternator problem and reached the parc ferme very late.

52   Quentin Savage / Russell Savage (Datsun 180B)
“We were stuck in section one and stuck in section two because there were other rally cars stopped going up the hill. The engine is fine and just the top bit of the exhaust is missing.”

 



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