Safari Dreams come true: Scott Armstrong’s Datsun 160J

Alongside the sporting challenges of the Safari Classic Rally, our biennial occasion is a wonderfully social event and the variety of paths that lead to a Safari Classic entry never cease to amaze. Up to sixty cars take part on every Safari Classic Rally, each with its own crew of people around it, so our community of past and present competitors has hundreds of stories to tell.

We’re sharing these under the “Safari Story” banner and our first piece tells the story of Scott Armstrong, who is tackling the 2017 Safari Classic with Harpal Sudle in the co-driver’s seat. Scott has saved and prepared for years to take part in Safari, doing his first Safari Classic as a mechanic in 2009 and again in 2015 on Nick Mason’s 260Z.

Childhood Safari Dreams

“I was born and raised in Kenya,” says Scott. “We lived there until I was seven years old, when my family moved to the UK. My dad was a big rally enthusiast and took me to watch the Safari Rally, always bringing his camera along too.

“As I grew up, I became increasingly obsessed by a photo my dad had taken of Shekhar Mehta in the Datsun Violet in 1982. Cars have been my passion since childhood and I have always loved rallying. Slowly the dream emerged to follow in Shekhar’s tyre tracks and do the Safari Rally in the same type of car.”

“Scott sent me to Tanzania to source this rally car,” says Harpal. “It was used in the original Safari, as what we think was a recce car for the works team. We bought the shell plus parts and shipped them back to the UK. Our car for the Classic includes much of that parts haul. Scott’s dream has been ten years in the making and I am excited to be part of it.”

“The Datsun 160J Violet is one of the most successful cars in Safari Rally history,” says Scott. “It won four times in a row (which people have inexplicably forgotten) with Shekhar behind the wheel. I have spent years tracking down original works parts to complete my car to the proper specification and it is almost ready – just a few jobs to do before shipping.

“It will be a very proud moment when we become the first team to bring a 160J Violet back to Safari for almost thirty years. I have been a “helper” on two Safari Classic events and made good friends as a result.

“My team of buddies includes Pali (the loud one), Billy (the crazy one), Idris (the sensible one) and three of my UK rally service crew friends: Kevin, Alan and Lara. We are hoping to get to the end without too many problems. It will be a once-in-a-lifetime adventure and I can’t wait to start the Safari.”

What a fantastic journey! We will be very excited to wave Scott and Harpal off on their epic adventure this November!

We love to hear how our competitors and their crews came to Safari and the stories of your preparations and ambitions. We look forward to sharing all photos and stories across our channels between now and the start of the rally. Send your Safari stories to media@eastafricansafarirally.com.