INTRODUCTION: The world's toughest motor rally begins in Nairobi, Kenya on Thursday (7 April). It's?
INTRODUCTION: The world's toughest motor rally begins in Nairobi, Kenya on Thursday (7 April). It's the Silver Jubilee Safari - once the East African Safari - and on Tuesday (5 April) the mechanics and drivers were putting the finishing touches to their vehicles. This year 73 cars are entered, and the course is the longest yet. It is also expected to be wetter, muddier and tougher than ever.
SYNOPSIS: Six factories have entered teams this year and one of them, Ford, is looking for a win to increase their chances of taking the world manufacturers championship prize. The favourites are Sweden's Bjorn Waldegaard and Hans Thors Zelius in a Ford Escort.
Other work teams entered are Colt, Datsun, Lancia and Peugeot. They and the private entries spent time on the practice circuits in Nairobi on Tuesday.
One of the hopes in the six-car Datsun team is Shekhar Mehta, who won the 1973 Safari. It's the tenth Safari rally he has entered, and he's driving a Datsun Violet.
Driving a similar car will be Harry Kallstrom of Sweden. He was placed second in the 1973 rally after a dead heat with Mehta. The Safari used to be run through Uganda and Tanzania as well, but these stages have been cancelled for political reasons.
The Safari rally has only been won twice in its 25-year history by overseas drivers. One of these winners was Hannu Mikkola of Finland who won in a Ford Escort in 1972. this year he's driving for the Peugeot team. He and the other drivers face 6,000 kilometres (3,700 miles) of the toughest driving condition in the world.
The rally is scheduled to take 92 hours, with less than 20 hours of rest, but it has never yet run to schedule because of the numerous natural obstacles which make the course so notable.
Some drivers ran into difficulties even before the start. Howard Lawrence-Brown overturned his Datsun after a spin, but, after minor repairs, he was soon on his way again.
The drivers face stone-throwing villagers, dangerous wild animals, flash-floods and incredibly bad roads. Local bookmakers are offering odds of 20-1 against half of the competitors finishing the rally.