The 2017 Safari Classic Rally will be Ramesh Vishram’s fourth appearance behind the wheel of a Ford Escort Mark 2. While Vishram has experienced technological evolutions across several different eras of rallying, he confesses to a growing soft spot for simple and reliable Ford Escorts Mk 2s.
“Nothing beats the nine-day adventure of the East African Safari Classic Rally in the cockpit of a classic Ford Escort,” says the reigning Kenyan Classic Car champion. “While I was part of the legendary East African Safari Rally before its removal from the WRC calendar, Safari Classic is a completely different challenge.
“The long sections are incredible: it is literally doing a Kenyan National Rally Championship event, every day for nine days! Driving and maintaining the car on a continuous basis entails mental and physical stamina, as well as sound planning and a reliable team too.
“I was actively involved with the Daihatsu Rally Team for about ten years through my WRC days, but landed a Ford on the 2011 Safari Classic, and realised that the Fords are reliable cars. Getting spares is relatively easier than other historics. So for now, Ford it is!”
Vishram tackled the 2011 and 2013 Safari Classics with Atul Kochhar, before teaming with Rohit Bhudia for the most recent event. The 54 year-old starts this year’s Classic with a Safari rookie alongside.
Riyaz Ismail has never competed on the Classic Safari, but has gathered substantial experience as a controller and service crew member. The potential for a pairing like Ramesh and Riyaz to spring a surprise by maintaining a consistent pace while staying out of trouble can never be ruled out on Safari.
“It’s always great to contest the world’s greatest historic motorsport event, so sincere thanks to Cementers Racing and also to Ramesh for this golden opportunity,” smiles Riyaz. “I previously served in team management for Aslam Khan’s ALS squad and am delighted to be back in a different capacity. 2017 has been my eighth year in the KNRC and sixth year in Kenyan Rally Raids, but to finally secure a Safari Classic co-driver’s seat is one of the highlights of this season.
“Compared to KNRC and the Rally Raid experience, Safari Classic is a completely different challenge, with longer stages run over nine days of gruelling action. I have tasted marathon rallying, when Ramesh and I finished sixth overall in the Rift 1000 Classic Rally. I’m sure my Rally Raid experience will come in handy, as the tulip system is more or less the same as what we work to during off road competitions. I have also been upping my fitness regime to prepare for the legendary rigours of the Safari Classic Rally.”