An urgent message from Cologne, West Germany, meant the end of 24 hours of suspense for Kenya's ace rally driver Robin Hillyer and his co-driver Jock Aird.
An urgent message from Cologne, West Germany, meant the end of 24 hours of suspense for Kenya's ace rally driver Robin Hillyer and his co-driver Jock Aird. Their provisional win of the East African safari depended on confirmation from the Ford Company in Germany that an engine part of their car was a standard production feature.
Covering three thousand miles (4,800 kilometres) of Africa's roughest roads, the East African Safari has long been regarded as one of the most gruelling motor rallies in the world. First run in 1953, Ford cars have won it six times. Last year, 1968, no cars managed to finish the course.
Hillyer and Aird were named provisional winners at the finish line yesterday (Monday). Doubts were raised when their car, a Ford Taunus, was being stripped and scrutinised. The scrutineers found a valve of an unexpected type in the engine. The onus rested on Hillyer and Aird to prove that the car was in absolute production condition, with no special modifications.
A series of telephone calls, telegrams and cables to the Ford factory in West Germany ensued, and finally, nearly 24 hours after the finish, the German reply was received confirming that the valves in question had become standard production parts only four weeks before the Safari began.
Tonight (Tuesday) Hillyer and Aird and all the other drivers, will be enjoying themselves at the Safari Ball in Nairobi.
This year's East African Safari was as dramatic after the finish as it had been before. Drivers who completed the gruelling 3,000 mile (4,800 kilometres) course were faced with a further 24 hours of suspense before the winner was confirmed.
Car 1, driven by Kenya's Robin Hillyer and Jock Aird was provisionally placed first.
But as the scrutineers stripped the car, they discovered an unfamiliar valve in the engine of the Ford Taunus. While other competitors were still crossing the finishing line, Hillyer and Aird had the task of contacting the manufacturer the Ford company of Germany, to get confirmation that the valve was a standard part.
Car 25 was a Datsun, driven by Jamildin - Marsoon Minhas. They were place 3rd. The onus is on the competitor to satisfy the scrutineer. This tough rally, won six times in the past by Ford cars, is as much as test of drivers as it is of cars, with the course running through dry river beds, up massive escarpments and over the dusty veldt. Last year, (1968) not one car finished the gruelling course.
Car 22, a Volvo, was driven by Jogindar Singh and Bharat Bhardwaj, both from Nairobi, the Kenyan capital. They were placed second and lodged a protest subsequently seeking to have pre-race declarations regarded as final evidence rather than allowing last minute, post race confirmation to be sought from manufacturers. They later withdrew their protest. Meantime, Hillyer and Aird were frantically trying to get confirmation from West Germany than their car was a standard production Ford Taunus.
They little knew when they crossed the line that so much suspense lay in store for them.
Finally, the manufacturers confirmed that the suspect valves had become a regular production feature only four weeks before the rally, and so Hillyer and Aird were confirmed as the winners of the East African Safari.
Tonight (Tuesday) they'll be celebrating their win with the other teams at the Safari Ball.