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Press Release: Wednesday, 16th February 2011

Porsche or Escort ?

It looks very much as if the first eleven months of 2011 will be the last time that anyone can say ‘a Porsche has never won the Safari Rally’. The line-up from the famous Stuttgart marque for the Kenya Airways East African Safari Classic Rally is simply amazing – and continues to grow with every passing day.

If we talk solely about confirmed entries, there are already exactly half of the thirty-four entries entered in Porsche 911s, a veritable Kriegsflotte von Stuttgart to overwhelm the Ford Escorts and Datsuns that have so far dominated the Safari Classic as well as the old East African Safari of the 1970s. In those days, a victory was so often nearly in the hands of a Porsche with drivers like Edgar Herrmann, Sobieslaw Zazada and most memorably, Björn Waldegård, frequently leading but never quite taking the top step on the podium. Zazada was sixth in 1969, fifth in 1971 and second in 1972, Waldegård second in 1974 and Vic Preston Junior second in 1978 but in those and the intervening years it was rare that a Porsche had not been at the front at sometime during the event.

It has been a similar story since the bi-annual Safari Classic started running in 2003. Frédéric Dor’s 911 was second ahead of Stuart Rolt’s similar car while Dor went on to finish third in 2005 and second again in 2007. Indeed in 2007, second, third, fourth and fifth places were filled by Porsche 911s. Then in 2009, Björn Waldegård, the winner from the previous year when he was in a Ford Escort, brought a 911 home in second place with Gérard Marcy fourth in another 911.

The Porsche entry this year looks set to write the epilogue to this story. Two formidable teams, Kronos Vintage and Tuthill Porsche, have between them already entered twelve cars and they have plenty of experience to call on both on the preparation side and from the crews. Kronos have Gregoire de Mevius, winner for them on the 2010 Rallye du Maroc as well as Kronos MD, Jean-Pierre Mondron, and Thierry de Latrie du Bosqueau  who both finished the 2009 Safari Classic in Kronos 911s. They are joined by a very famous name, that of Claude Ruiz-Picasso, the only surviving son of Pablo Picasso who has devoted much of his life to administering his father’s estate but whose hobby is very much concerned with cars and motor sport.

For the Tuthill team, they are entering Thomas Flohr who astounded the pundits by finishing fifth in 2009 on his first attempt at a Safari and also Aslam Khan who has Safari experience going back to the end of the 1970s. Steve Troman is back with them and hoping to improve on his seventh place in 2009 and is joined in the line-up by Richard Jackson and Stephen Funk.

It is hard to say from where the main opposition to the Stuttgart invaders might come but it will probably be from the Ford Escorts. And the most likely of these will be coming from Viking Motorsport, the Escort preparation company run by ex-WRC champion co-driver, Phil Mills. As yet, Viking have only two of their Escort Mk2 RS1800’s entered and the lead car is being driven by John Lloyd who had done most of the Safari Classics in Porsche and Escorts, claiming fourth overall in 2005 in a Porsche 911. The second car is still to have its crew identified and the organisers have been told that they should ‘watch this space’ for someone who will not disappoint.

With entries still coming in thick and fast, this whole Escort v Porsche situation may change considerably in the coming months. It is worth noting that both Tuthill and Kronos, like Viking, still have one ‘to be announced’ in the already registered entries. Speculation abounds as to whom these cars will finally be allotted but all that can be said for the moment is that there are quite a few past Safari winners out there who could be interested in competing. We can only wait and see.

 



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