Kenya's President Jomo Kenyatta will wave a flag outside the City Hall in Nairobi on Thursday (11 April), and the 22nd East African Safari car Rally will have begun.
Kenya's President Jomo Kenyatta will wave a flag outside the City Hall in Nairobi on Thursday (11 April), and the 22nd East African Safari car Rally will have begun. The President will not flag off each of the competitors -- there are too many of them -- but he will start the car drawn number one, which will be a Peugeot driven by Hannu Mikkola, and a Lancia Fulvia driven by Shekhar Mehta, last year's winner.
This year a hundred and five cars have been entered for the Rally, which is a record for the event. Once again top rally drivers from all over the World will be taking part, even through the first overseas driver to ever win the competition was Mikkola two years ago.
The drivers and their teams are now putting the finishing touches to their cars in workshops set up in and around Nairobi. At one time Safair officials were hoping that the average speed for the competition would be the fastener ever this year. But the monsoon rains arrived early and many parts of the 3,000 mile course have been turned into treacherous mud baths. The Rally is already regarded as the toughest annual event in the motoring calendar because it is over some of the worst road in the World. Following the heavy rains, the hazards will have increased greatly, with drivers heaving to negotiate waterlogged black cotton soil.
In the past the Safari course passed through three East African countries -- Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya. This year it has been restricted to Kenya, with the three stages each ending in Nairobi. The bad road conditions are expected to favour the local competitors, rather than the visitors.
Last year's Rally ended in an unprecedented dead-heat between the Ugandan Asian millionaire, Shekhar Mehta, and Sweden's Harry Kaellstrome before incurring his first penalty point.
This year the Japanese have entered 60 of the 105 cars. Though most of them are Datsuns, the firm has not entered a factory team. Among the more notable of the 30 overseas drives taking part are Timo Makinen (Peugeot), Over Anderson (Peugeto), and the Finnish rally-ace Rauno Aaltonon (BMW).
SYNOPSIS: Drivers who have entered for the East African Safari Rally have been practicing in the treacherous conditions that they will meet in this year's event which begins on Thursday. The Rally will be started in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, by President Jome Kenyatta of Kenya. He will flag-off the first two cars -- one of them will be lancian, driven by last year's winner, the twenty-seven year old Ugandan Asian millionaire, Shekhar Mehta. His Lancia is among others -- including Sandro Munari's and Lofty Drews' -- being given their final turning in these workshops in Nairobi.
In yet another workshop, the Fiat mechanics are working on their competition cars. This year there will be a hundred and five competing vehicles -- a record for the event. Once again top rally drivers from all over the World will be taking part, even though the first overseas driver to win the Safari -- Hannu Mikkola -- did so only two years ago.
Along with fellow Scandinavians Timo Makinen and Over Anderson, Mikkola will be driving for the Peugeot works team, and as his will be the first car to be flagged away by President Kenyatta, he had been taking special interest in the final preparations. But he too has been finding the wet conditions troublesome.
On this trial ground on the city outskirts, Mikkola's Lancia stuck in the mud. At one time safari officials were hoping for a record average speed in this year's event. But the monsoon rains arrived early and many parts of the three thousand mile course have been turned into treacherous mud baths. Drivers will have to make up on the dry stretches, to compensate for time lost elsewhere.
The Rally is already regarded as the toughest event in the motoring calendar, as it covers some of the worst roads in the world. The bad conditions this year will once again favour the local men.