Safari Classic Rally Day 6: Navigation errors prove costly for some

As the memory of rest day faded and the 2017 Kenya Airways East African Safari Classic Rally entered its second and final four-day phase, some drivers found it easy to slip back into a rhythm, while others struggled to get back up to speed.

Starting second on the road behind the overnight leader, Baldev Chager, Ryan Champion and Richard Jackson got the hammer down early in the number 9 Porsche (above), clocking a 19:12 on CS13 versus the leader’s 19:54, and closing the 99-second gap at the start of the day to less than a minute. Geoff Bell matched Chager’s time exactly, finishing joint second and setting a marker for another strong performance on the day’s second stage. Bell and co-driver Tim Challen set the fastest time overall: an 81:54, which was ten seconds quicker than Chager in second. A seemingly straightforward junction on stage fifteen would be today’s decider.

“We started off with a good run through the first stage this morning,” said Champion at the end of the day. “We were fastest in that one: a good clean run with no dramas over thirty-five kilometres. We then went into a 155-kilometre stage in Tanzania. It had everything: very fast high-speed sections, twisty stuff and very rough, rocky sections. We had a reasonable run through there, until about two-thirds of the way through and then we broke a rear shock absorber, so we had to cruise through the last forty kilometres of that stage, probably dropping us about a minute.

“The last stage was a shorter one of twenty-five kilometres. Pretty much a clean run for us, but there was one junction that’s caused a bit of controversy. It was clear in the road book, but it came up very quickly. We overshot it: we went a hundred metres wrong, turned around and came back, but others have gone three or four kilometres wrong. A few people are whinging about it, but at the end of the day, the road book was right.”

The times at the end of CS15 showed just costly navigation errors can be on Safari. Despite wrong-footing the junction by some hundred metres, Champion/Jackson set the fastest time overall: 14m17s over the twenty-five kilometres. Next up was Carl Tundo: the TR7 V8 charging through the stage, with a time some twenty seconds slower than the Porsche. Third position went to the Team Tidö 911 of Roger Samuelsson and Robin Friberg. Chager and Soni finished the stage with a time of just under 19 minutes to go fourteenth quickest overall.

This put Jackson/Champion in the lead of the rally, two and a half minutes ahead of Chager in second. Carl Tundo and co-driver Tim Jessop are not slowing down in third: now less than five minutes behind P2, having cut their gap to P1 by almost a minute today. All top three drivers have now led the rally, and all have the potential to win it. But with three days of rallying left, there is still a long way to go, and anything can happen on Safari.

Twenty-five cars will start the rally tomorrow, with both Ian Duncan and Onkar Rai having retired their cars in recent days due to engine failures. The day’s first stage has been shortened due to a problem with a river crossing, so the total stage mileage for tomorrow will be a touch shorter than the original itinerary, which was already the rally’s second shortest day at just 142 stage kilometres in total.

Safari Classic fans may track the rally cars online using our Google Earth overlays: see more details here.

Our main photo is by the excellent Cheka Photography. Cheka-out their website here!