The East African Safari Rally got underway on Thursday afternoon (11 April) with 100 starters leaving Nairobi on the first stage to Mount Kenya.
The East African Safari Rally got underway on Thursday afternoon (11 April) with 100 starters leaving Nairobi on the first stage to Mount Kenya. It is the 22 nd time the prestigious rally has been run, but as night fell, freak rain and a thunderstorm left all but the first fifteen cars stranded in mud 150 miles (250 kilometers) out side Nairobi.
The early race leader was the Finnish driver Timo Makinen, driving a works-entered Peugeot 504, followed by Sweden's Ove Andersson, also in a 504. The placing were announced after rally officials had decided that penalty points incurred in the flooded sector, between Musoinoke and Meru control stages, would be waived.
Even before the rally got underway, part of the route had been changed because torrential rains had washed away large stretches of road. Thursday's storm prompted the Clerk of the Course, Mr. Derek Gates, to say - "In all the years I have been connected with the Safari, since the early 1960's, I have never seen such violent weather erupt so rapidly and destructively."
After a rest in Nairobi on Friday night, drivers continued on the 3.000-mile (5,000 kilometres) rally, which ends on Monday (15 April).
This year saw the entry of the two African lady drivers, Mary Ondieki and Sylvia Omino. They almost missed the start as their car - a Colt Galant - was not fully prepared. But the deadline was extended by two hours, and they were able to get the car examined and passed by the chief scrutineer.
SYNOPSIS: A Peugeot five-o-four, driven by Hannu Mikkola and Jean Todt, was the firs car to set off from Nairobi town Hall at the start of this yea's gruelling East African Safari Rally. The large crowds who turned out for the Thursday afternoon start met with strict police control at times.
Italians Sergio Barbasio and Piero Sodano in a Fiat followed by another Peugeot, driven by Swedish rally veteran Ove Andersson and fellow-countryman Arne Hertz, were the next two teams to set out on the gruelling four-day, three-thousand-mile rally.
Another early starter - Timo Makinen of Finland and England's Henry Liddon driving yet another Peugeot. And at the end of the day, they were the rally leaders. The first fifteen starters were lucky, because, as night fell, a heavy rain and thunderstorm left one stretch of the route deep in mud. The first fifteen were able to get through, but the others were stranded, many cars up to their axles in mud.
Before declaring Makinen, in car number five, the early leader, rally officials decided not to penalise the stranded drivers.
There were plenty of spectators out in the country to see the Irish drivers Arnie Poole and Kenny Johnston pass in their German B.M.W.
Car number twenty-five - one of several Datsuns entered by East African teams - driven by Kenyans Bashir Ali and Z.A. Dar.
Two other African entries, from Zambia and Tanzania, leave a cloud of dust behind them - dust which was to turn into that disastrous mud later in the evening.