Dr Thomas Schünemann will co-drive a Datsun 260Z on the Kenya Airways East African Safari Classic Rally in November. He is the founder and CEO of Hamburger Software GmbH in Germany but, in his youth, he lived for a while in Tokyo. In 1969 when he was eighteen years old he watched a film made for Datsun about the Safari Rally of that year. It was entitled “5,000 Kilometres to Glory”. He was so captivated by the excitement and adventure of the rally – he still has the original programme and cinema ticket – that he was determined to get involved in the sport when he got back to Germany.
In due time, he was able to do that and in 1975 started out driving a BMW 2002. Since then, he had done a lot more rallying, though in recent times his participation has been more as co-driver and sponsor to seven times German Rally Champion, Matthias Kahle. Together, they have driven Paris-Dakar seven times and twice won the two-wheel drive class in a Buggy finishing as high as tenth overall in 2011. Schünemann and Kahle also collaborated to compete with a Porsche 911 GT3 in the German Championship of 2008.
But now, forty-six years after seeing that film in a Tokyo cinema, Schünemann is going to be competing on a real Safari Rally and he is doing it in a Datsun. He says: “This is something that I have dreamt of for many years now and I still cannot believe that it is finally coming true. There is no rally I have looked forward to so much as I do now for the Safari. To tackle the classic roads and see the landscapes that brought me to rallying and changed my life is something really special for me.”
Datsun 260Z of Kahle/Schünemann
The Datsun 260Z of Kahle Schünemann is the one driven by Malcolm Destro/Simon Bates on the Safari Classic in 2013 to fourteenth overall (see photo).
It is a truly international entry since the engine is from Stuart Wilkins (SW Motorsport) in Australia. The roll cage, seats and fuel system came from the UK. Some of the body parts were sourced from Canada while the engine parts came from the USA. The car is, Japanese, has been prepared in Kenya and is being driven by Germans.
Kahle and Schünemann had planned to take part in the KCB Kajiado Rally, but this was delayed by one day because of heavy rain. In order not to miss the opportunity to test their Datsun while they were in Nairobi, they drove out towards Suswa to tackle one of the stages used in the EASCR of 2011 and 2013. The test was highly successful. The Datsun 260Z ran faultlessly and they were able to drive the stage using a borrowed road book from 2013.
Thomas Schünemann: “The road book system of the Safari Classic is very similar to the one used on the Rally Dakar where you also do not know the stages beforehand. Since we have participated in the Dakar seven times, this is perfect for us. We immediately felt at home in the car and on the stage.”
Matthias Kahle: “The adjustments we made to the suspension were really good. The Datsun felt perfect in all conditions ranging from wet to dry and from stony tracks to powdery fesh-fesh. I am still lacking a bit of experience with a right-hand drive car but apart from that we feel we are well prepared for the Safari Classic. Certainly, this test drive has proved to us that the 260Z was the right choice.”