At the weekend, there was a very important meeting in Nairobi. This was the briefing for the key marshals, timekeepers and officials of the Kenya Airways Safari Classic Rally. It was held in a typically informal tented setting outside the new offices of the rally on Riverside Drive in Nairobi.
There were fifty people present who were taken through the agenda by the Rally Manager, Ashok Bhalla. The majority of the officials have Safari Rally experience that for some of them goes back as far as the original rally held in the latter half of the Twentieth Century. But every year there are changes in operational formats and timing requirements that have to be taken into account by even the most experienced. The Safari Classic may be a rally for older cars but the systems used to run it are entirely up to date.
On a rally that covers some 4,100 km in Kenya and Tanzania over a period of nine days, it essential that everyone involved in running it – from the crew that drives the route one day in advance right through all the officials running time controls, competitive sections and the border crossings to the crews ‘sweeping’ the route after the last car – know just what they should be doing and when. It is particularly relevant this year when the Safari Classic has received a full entry with just over sixty-five cars due to start this legendary event.
With nearly all of the rally cars and their supplies of tyres and spare parts already in Mombasa, the next move will be this coming weekend, November 9th/10th. All the paraphernalia of a major international rally from time cards and route books to computers and printers will be loaded onto a truck at the Nairobi rally office ready for its 500 km trip to the Rally HQ at the Sarova Whitesands Beach Hotel Resort on the Indian Ocean just north of Mombasa. By Wednesday, November 13th all the rally staff will be there and documentation for the crews will start on Friday, November 15th with scrutineering of the rally cars commencing on Tuesday, November 19th.
The final acts before the rally gets under way on Thursday, November 21st will be the Driver’s briefing the day before on Wednesday, November 20th followed that evening by a very special Welcome Party at Whitesands at which some surprises await the rally crews.
PS: Weather. Ashok Bhalla reports that : “It has started to rain in some parts of the country especially Naivasha, which has been getting regular showers for the last ten days.” And for the next six days, the forecast for Nairobi and Mombasa is “scattered thunderstorms” though they are due to clear up by next Wednesday. However, it is best to remember that the muddy conditions of the Safari Classic in 2011 were due to rain that had fallen previously and filled the many mud-holes and river crossings that feature on the Safari route.