There is rarely an uneventful day on East African Safari Classic Rally and today was no exception, despite being shorter than planned due to cancellation of two out of four of the competitive sections. In the first section Ian Duncan in his Ford Capri kept his lead from Stig Blomqvist in a Race4Health Tuthill prepared Porsche 911 but it was diminished to only 56 seconds due to a puncture. With the lead back in sight, the Swedish crew then managed to take nearly two minutes off Duncan in the last section to give them an overall lead of 59 seconds. Amazingly for an event like this, it is still only a matter of seconds between these two crews.
The first very sandy section of the day proved better for some than others. Gregoire de Mevius set fastest time on this section in a BMA Porsche 911 and Blomqvist set second fastest. Kenyan crew Onkar Rai and Baldev Chager in a Porsche 911 set third fastest time on the 32km section and moved ahead of John Lloyd’s Viking Ford Escort into sixth position overall. Gérard Marcy kept his third overall position in a Porsche 911, over 18 minutes behind the top two crews whilst Steve Perez remained in fourth in his Amigos Datsun 260Z another 23 minutes behind Marcy. His team-mate Geoff Bell who had set fastest times on the last two of sections of yesterday suffered the same misfortune as Ian Duncan with a puncture but that happened much closer to the end of the section and he managed to set fifth fastest time.
After the first section the Kenyan father and son crew David and Alex Horsey were in fifth place overall in their Porsche 911 with Alex at the wheel losing a few seconds to Perez. They were still suffering power problems but these were fixed before the next section. Philippe Vandromme suffered two major problems: a distributor failure and a driveshaft problem in the section, losing about fifteen minutes in the section and also losing his eighth overall position to Bell. Vandromme also incurred a 1 hour 30 minute road penalty.
This first section deteriorated as the cars passed through, with deep powdery sand and ruts causing a lot of cars to get stuck, either temporarily or permanently. Therefore it was decided to cancel the second run of this section later in the day. With the second section of the day from Suswa also cancelled this meant a much shorter competitive day than envisioned with only 116 km competitive sections compared to the planned 194 km.
There was a long wait before the 84 km Soysambu section that runs behind Lake Elementaita which had a variety of challenges for the East African Safari Classic crews, including numerous river crossings. With less than a minute to Duncan, Blomqvist clearly had the lead in his sights, setting second fastest time on this section, 1 minute 55 seconds faster than Duncan which allowed him to take the overall lead by 59 seconds. The Swedish touring car driver Richard Göransson clocked another fastest time on this section in a Race4Health Tuthill prepared Porsche 911 and was clearly getting into the Safari swing of things.
Marcy remained in third overall place, behind Duncan by over 22 minutes. Perez set sixth fastest time on the last section, remaining in fourth place, although co-driver Carl Millington describe the last section as a “Welsh night rally without the maps and no landmarks!” He is more than 20 minutes behind Marcy. Indeed the Horseys had a few navigational problems in the last section, allowing Perez to gain some time over them, but they stay in fifth place overall. Kenyan crew Rai and Chager suffered a puncture in the last section but still managed to move ahead of Lloyd’s Ford Escort. Bell also suffered a puncture on the last section but has managed to pull up to eighth place after Vandromme’s problems during the day. In ninth place is the Kenyan crew of Baryan and Chana in a Porsche 911 but over 23 minutes behind Bell, whilst the Belgian crew of van Heurck and Lopez have moved into the top ten in their Porsche 911 with Gregoire de Mevius close behind them in a BMA Porsche 911.
Later in the day crews running further down the field hit difficulties with the river crossings in the second section and there was quite a gathering with several cars requiring help and many having to wait for over half an hour. One of the sad stories of the day was the retirement of Marzio Kravos and Renzo Bernardi in their Ferrari 308. On the first section of the day their engine failed. They were able to confirm this by the fact that metal parts from the interior of the engine were coming out of the exhaust. With no truck-full of spare engines they have decided to finish the rally in Naivasha.
Tomorrow the cars leave to start the long haul back towards Mombasa. There are three sections, the first of which is a 50 km re-run in the opposite direction through the Meyer’s farm section and a 70 km section out from Isinya to the Mombasa road. The final section of the day is another run though part of the Taita hills – this one a mere 30 km.
Quotes from the top six crews
Car no. 5 Stig Blomqvist/Staffan Parmander Porsche 911
It was very rough but it’s over now. In these sections I did not even notice the brake knock-off so I don’t know if it’s still there! As front-runners on CS19 it was hard to see where to go. There are no landmarks, just grass and tracks everywhere
Car no. 3 Ian Duncan/Amaar Slatch Ford Capri V8 Perana
The day started with a puncture on CS17 – it was about a third of the way in and I hit a rock that had been pulled out of the side by the grader. We did a quick change and didn’t lose much time but when you consider there were probably only two rocks in the whole section I’m mystified how I managed to hit one!
Car no. 6 Gérard Marcy/Stéphané Prevot Porsche 911
No dramas. But there were lorries on CS19. One was going in the same direction as us and it took a long time to get past him and 5km further on there was an ordinary car driving along. The notes warned that there would be traffic on this stretch of road but we didn’t expect that – it must have cost us at least a couple of minutes.
Car no. 7 Steve Perez/John Millington Datsun 260Z
We saw loads of giraffe and a real genuine zebra crossing on CS19. There were roads everywhere and John did a very good job of getting us round. There were no landmarks and John described it as being like a Welsh night rally without maps.
Car no. 8 David Horsey / Alex Horsey Porsche 911
We almost blush to say it but we locals were lost CS19 for three minutes – the notes were not very hot and in addition our Halda was starting to play up. We could never be sure if it was working 100% or not but somehow we got through and although Geoff Bell got past us when we wrong slotted we got past him again when he had a puncture.
Car no. 19 Onkar Rai / Baldev Chager Porsche 911
Today was good. We went pretty well through CS17 and were third fastest but in CS19 we hit a rock and got a puncture before the river crossings – it was the third in two days. We still managed to catch John (Lloyd). It was really rough in the last section – even as a Kenyan I would say it was rough!