Wednesday, 21 November 2007

East African Classic Safari Rally

Anytime I read about the Safari Rally, I have this tear hanging out my eye. There are 2 reasons
Reason No. 1:
About 17 years ago, when the Safari Rally was part of the World Rally Champion (WRC) circuit, I remember the cars were to use a route which was like 800m from our humble abode. To make more interesting those machines would fly past a stretch of like 1km at high speeds of +200km/h along this driveway and at night to boot. They were on their final leg as they headed back to KICC for the podium and pop of the champagne. Being a Sunday and the next day being a Monday (funny enough Easter Monday…the rally almost always used to coincide with the Easter weekend, lots of rains and mud, what a joy to watch them splash this around!), I was obliged to wake up at some ungodly hour of 3-4 a.m. to watch these ruts get their thing done on the road. I even set up the alarm in my excitement to shatter my sweet dreams and make them come true, alas! It never happened; I woke up the next day at the hour of 8 only to find the last of the cars had gone by at 6.30a.m. Much to the chagrin of the rally enthusiasts!
What made worse for me, that was the year one of my all-time rally drivers and Safari rally legend last won the rally, none other than the ‘Flying Swede’ Bjorn Waldegaard driving a Toyota Celica GT4 breaking the 2-year reign of the Italian Miki Biasion.
Reason No.2:
5 years ago, a friend of mine who later flew out of the country was around town and I was scrounging in their digs. This was at a time I had lost my job and was busy doing what guys call –“in-between-jobs “. This pal of mine lets call him Nerd also had a friend of his called Josh. They had managed to organize for a trip out of town and this was to be near Naivasha- a town about 50 km from Nairobi in the Rift Valley- where the 2002 Safari Rally was taking place. Right there the route was making the cars go through twice, once during the day & the second just before sunset. What a break it would have been from all the stress of the City. To make it even more interesting my pals had secured 2 rides and my oh my, was I jumping up & down my bed. There was a small rider though: Only “Couples” were being allowed on this trip. Bring along a partner and a small fee for the fuel, drinks and snacks to be taken on the trip. A night was also planned for at the said town.
That just blew my sails off and I had to settle for the unenviable task of house-keeping for the weekend. The only chance I had of watching the rally cars live in action was blown away. That year saw some of the most memorable images being broadcast across the globe but the most painful must have been one of Richard Burns getting stuck a few metres from the final check-point at Suswa and trying in vain (and tears) to get his Subaru Impreza WRC from a dust pan. He was thus time-barred and out of contention a stone's throw away from the final checkpoint for that Leg.
Why do I shed tears you ask?
- the former would have had me watch the cars at the most comfortable of places and in one of the most spectacular of ways,
- the latter was to be the last time that the Safari Rally was to feature as a WRC series rally.

Please don’t get reasons to shed your tears, get your boys (and girls who care) to the hotspots and watch the East African Classic Safari Rally! Catch all the splash and shine, classics and former classy drivers too as they relive the original rally frequently referred to as a test between man and machine!

Interesting Facts:
The Rally was originally set as the East African Coronation Rally in the 3 Eastern Africa countries of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania as a celebration of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth the II. She’ll be around this part of Africa for the CHOGM-Commonwealth Heads Of Governments Meeting being held in Kampala, Uganda. I’m sure they can spare sometime to watch these oldies as they take a break from the talk-show that is the conference held.

It was renamed EA Safari Rally in 1960 before changing to Safari Rally in 1974 after being reduced to the Kenyan circuit ONLY. Up until 2002 the rally was part of the WRC circuit but is now on the lesser known African Rally (ARC) and this year was part of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC).
The Classic Rally version started in 2003 as a way of commemorating the original rally and also showcasing the prowess of man and machine under minimal service and power. This is more like the 1950s & 1960s.
For more details check out

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