Kenyan-built Porsche 911 enters Safari Classic

Popular Kenyan driver, Raaji Bharij, and partner Rajay Sehmi have joined the entry list for the 2017 Safari Classic Rally with a Kenyan-built Porsche 911. Thought to be the first ever classic Porsche rally challenger built in Kenya, the 911 was scratch-built by Sehmi at home in Kilimani, Nairobi. Bharij takes up the story:

“The 2015 Safari Classic was the first Classic we tackled and it was a great experience: incredible competition, adventure and camaraderie. We achieved all of our goals: winning our class with a top ten finish and being the first non-Porsche on the finishers list.

“From there, we started discussing our next Safari Classic and what was needed to achieve a better finish. The idea was born to build a Porsche: the ultimate tool for the long, high-speed stages. Putting this project together has been a dream come true for Rajay.”

Kenyan-Built 911 starts life as a Targa

Sehmi’s 911 began life as a Targa: a convertible Porsche with a folding centre roof panel.  The car was bought locally and then strengthened and converted to a rally car. Spares have come from all over the world, but primarily the UK and America. Rebuilding key components was all done in-house.

“Having no roof has presented some challenges,” admits Rajay. “Porsche spares are not cheap, so our testing budget has also been limited. Our first real test was the Dar es Salaam Rally, where the front arms failed within a few kilometres. That put us out of the rally, but taught us a valuable lesson. Thereafter, we performed route-opening duties and the car ran well for the rest of the event.

“Since then, our testing has focused on understanding the suspension, developing the setup and familiarisation with the gearing and handling, which is completely different to an Escort. One must be super-aggressive with the Ford, but the Porsche requires a lot more respect. We are working on improvements that will allow time for only one more test, so we will have to make that count.”

“The limited budget and lack of development time meant we were not able to fit power steering,” said Bharij. “I am already starting to regret this, for it would save a lot of energy on a marathon rally. My plan is to get as strong as I can, so I have power steering in my arms rather than the car!”

The 2017 Kenya Airways East African Safari Classic Rally starts in Mombasa on November 23 and runs through Kenya and Tanzania until the finish on December 1. Email us with any questions:

Original story by Samson Ateka