There are now just fifty days to the start of the 2017 Kenya Airways East African Safari Classic Rally. In workshops throughout Kenya and Tanzania, the biggest names in African rallying are putting the final touches to their classic rally chargers, ready to go head-to-head with Europe’s most respected historic rally teams across the plains of Kenya and Tanzania.
“The original East African Safari Rally is a special event in the hearts and minds of the global rallying community,” says Pipi Renu, General Manager, Safari Classic Rally. “It is a real privilege to evoke the memory of the greatest drivers and adventurers of that period by running the world’s most challenging historic rally every two years in their honour.”
This year’s Safari Classic Rally includes several small but significant tweaks to the rally regulations, which have encouraged many new European competitors to ship their cars to Africa for the nine-day event. Power steering is now permitted on the grounds of comfort and safety, and the cut-off age for cars has been stretched to 1985.
While four wheel-drive and turbocharged cars remain ruled out for safety and balance of performance reasons, extending the age range brings new cars to Safari, including the Group B Mazda RX-7 of Le Mans and Dakar Rally competitor, Frenchman Philippe Gache. Also coming from France is the Daunat Historique squad of Citroen SMs. Fitted with racing Maserati engines, these idiosyncratic machines will be real crowd pleasers amongst the thousands of spectators that always line the Safari Classic Rally route.
“We’ve clocked up thousands of kilometres and spent several weeks surveying the route for this year’s rally, including many stages which have never been rallied before,” notes Renu. “Since its inception in 2003, Safari Classic has been about man and machine tackling the toughest terrain, and the virgin stages take away some of the perceived advantage held by local experts. Completing this year’s Safari Classic Rally will be a real feather in the cap for all who take part.”
As to who will win, that is anyone’s guess. All the top teams have been testing their cars and ironing out the last gremlins, and the entry list is awash with highly competitive Ford Escorts, Porsche 911s and Datsuns of all shapes and sizes, but Safari is always entirely unpredictable: rallies have been lost in the last ten kilometres. The battle is sure to rage hard from the start at Whitesands Mombasa on November 23rd.