The East African Safari Classic Rally 2011 was held November 19-28, starting in Mombasa on Kenya’s Indian Ocean coast.
On the last day of the 2011 Kenya Airways East African Safari Classic rally the priority of all crews was to drive their cars over the finishers’ ramp at Mombasa, come hell or high water. And there have been plenty of both on this incredible adventure of a rally. Out of the forty-six crews that started the rally on November 19th, forty-three crews set off from Voi for the final day of competition. This is an impressive number of survivors on this epic event that combines endurance with high speed competition over some of the toughest terrain and through some of the toughest conditions.
Bjorn and Mathias Waldegard, who were leading the event going into the final day by twenty-four minutes, took it cautiously in their Porsche 911, setting respectable times but by no means the fastest. Waldegard commented on the win, “I’m very glad to be here and very, very glad to have won the rally. (Co-driver) Mathias has done an absolutely brilliant job and done everything 100%.”
Second-placed crew Geoff Bell and Tim Challen were also taking things easy in their Datsun 260Z but still suffered two punctures in the last section. “We had two punctures only 400 metres apart from each other,” said Bell. “And we managed to bend a rim. I’m very glad to be here. We’ve been taking it easy today but maybe that was problem!”
Third placed Stig Blomqvist and Ana Goni also decided not to push too hard in their Ford Escort. “It’s been a really hard rally this year,” said Blomqvist. “But that’s the way it is on the Safari.”
As the cars went over the ramp at the Sarova Whitesands hotel in Mombasa there had been no change in the top three on the final day. After an impressive battle with several top crews Waldegard was the overall winner by thirty-five minutes from Bell. This is the first Porsche victory on the East African Safari Classic Rally. Third place overall went to Blomqvist who, despite hitting major problems with a broken axle on the first day, had climbed up from thirty-first position and was forty-one minutes behind Bell. Considering that the majority of the cars in the rally were Porsche 911s, the final 1-2-3 of a Porsche 911, a Datsun 260Z and a Ford Escort provided a nice diversity.
On the first 27 km section in the Taita foothills Gérard Marcy and Stéphane Prévot set fastest time by only five seconds from Steven Funk and Andrew Doig in another Porsche 911, while third fastest time went to Ian Duncan and Amaar Slaatch in their Ford Capri. Waldegard set only twelfth fastest but with, twenty-four minutes in hand over Bell, it was clear that the former World Rally Champion had a safe steady finish in his sights. The other former World Rally Champion on the event, Stig Blomqvist, had problems on the road section when the engine cut out but, having changed the coil, the car continued.
The second section of the day was the rally’s first section in reverse with a small twist in the centre. Funk was clearly getting into his stride on this fast open section, setting quickest time by over half a minute from Duncan, while Perez, who also went well in the first section, set third fastest. Waldegard set eighth fastest time and his lead over Bell had now been diminished to twenty-two minutes but, with only 45 competitive kilometres and the road section back to Mombasa left to go, the Swedish crew clearly didn’t want to take any risks.
However the last section was not without its problems. Second overall crew Geoff Bell and Tim Challen hit problems in their Datsun 260Z when they had two punctures in quick succession and bent a rim, losing at least ten minutes. Fortunately for Bell he had a substantial lead over third placed Blomqvist and managed to maintain his second place overall, putting him between two former World Rally Champions on the podium which is no mean feat! This meant that Waldegard’s lead extended to thirty-five minutes over Bell, whilst the gap between second placed Bell and third placed Blomqvist was reduced to just under forty-one minutes. Steve Troman and Michael Nutt set fastest time on this last section in their Porsche 911 with Marcy setting second fastest and Duncan setting third fastest. This meant the top three remained the same from yesterday, as did the top ten indicating that everyone was adopting a cautious approach to ensure a safe finish.
Multiple Safari competitor Marcy finished in fourth place in his Porsche 911, followed by Steve Perez and Staffan Parmander in their Datsun 260Z in fifth place. The Kick Energy rally team had battled through a fair amount of adversity from the offset and moved up an impressive 28 places from the first day when they were lying 33rd. Sixth place was taken by Steven Funk and Andrew Doig in their Porsche 911 who had put in a reliable performance throughout the rally and set their first fastest time on today’s second section.
Current Kenyan Rally Champion Ian Duncan finished in seventh place alongside co-driver Amaar Slatch. The Ford Capri crew were in the top three for the first part of the rally but dropped down to 22nd place due to mechanical problems on the third day but managed to pull up to seventh place overall. Having driven a consistent rally, the Kronos Vintage Porsche 911 crew of Jean-Pierre Mondron and Nicolas Gilsoul finished in eighth place whilst John Lloyd and Adrian Cavenagh were in ninth place. A keen fan of the Safari principles of rallying, Lloyd has promised that this WILL be his last Safari but only time will tell. Making up the top ten was another Kronos Vintage Porsche 911 crew in the hands of Philippe Vandromme and Frédéric Vivier, whilst a third Kronos Vintage Porsche was eleventh in the hands of Grégoire de Mévius and Alain Guehennec. De Mévius, who is a former Production Car World Rally Champion, led the rally on the second day but broke his suspension on the fourth day and dropped down to 15th place. At the beginning of yesterday he had pulled up to sixth place but then dropped down to 13th after hitting a rock and then losing a wheel in a mud hole in yesterday’s final section.
Joining the multiple World Rally Champions in the field was X-Games, motorcross and rally driver Travis Pastrana. He drove a Porsche 911 in the first three days of the rally before handing the driving over to former Kenyan Rally Champion Patrick Njiru. Pastrana left on a good note, setting fastest time in the last section. “This rally is absolutely epic,” said Pastrana. “One of the best experiences of my life.”
Although getting on the podium of this remarkable event is an incredible achievement so too is making the finishers’ ramps, which was clear by the huge smiles on each and every one of the crews that finished the 2011 running of the East African Safari Classic Rally. Indeed, it’s difficult to find words to describe the experience of competing on this event but, one thing’s for sure, it’s definitely addictive.
East African Safari Classic Rally 2011 – Photo Gallery (click image for larger picture and description)
[Source: East African Safari Classic; photo credit: McKlein]