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Safari Rallyt; Hot gossip from Mombasa.

Mike Stuart, co-driver to Steve Perez, has never co-driven before. But he does have just a little rally experience. For instance, he has driven on scores of British rallies including the RAC Rally during the 1980s and has been on Safari twelve times for Mitsubishi as mechanic and, more importantly, chase car driver. He also made gravel notes for Richard Burns on the Safari in 1998. Thus he is fully familiar with Safari roads and conditions. Like Mike, Steve has a lot of experience in British rallying but is an African novice so will be relying on Mike for advice on tactics and pace. The most important thing this year is to cross the finish line says Mike. He was last seen heading off with a set of high detailed maps for some co-driver homework. Together with their BTR prepared Datsun 260Z, they should be candidates for a good result.

Indeed local knowledge is undoubtedly an asset and has been recruited into several of the international teams. Although born in Kenya John Lloyd has lived in the UK most of his rallying career. Not only will he be driving a local car (Mike Kirkland´s 240Z that was driven in the 2005 Safari by Juha Kankkunen) but he will have a local co-driver beside him. Adrian Cavenagh is the brother of former Kenyan rally champion Alister Cavenagh, and has previously co-driven with Lloyd on a number of African rallies.

Alex Hack, here at the wheel of a Historic Rally Sport Ford Escort RS1600 is another to trust in the supportive talents of a local co-driver, David Lawrence-Brown. They have done a Safari Classic together before and David is not only a local rallyman himself, but his parents were also Safari competitors back in the late 1950´s and early 1960´s.

Another co-driver with plenty of local experience is Lofty Drews who competed in the Safari in the sixties and seventies and won with Shekhar Mehta in 1973. He flew into Kenya on Wednesday from his home in Australia to sit beside Jayant Shah in a Datsun 260Z only to check in immediately at the local hospital. A couple of days previously, he had scratched his leg on a chain saw and, unbeknown to him, it had become infected. He had some first aid when the flight stopped in Dubai but needed more full-scale attention on arrival in Kenya. Fortunately attention to the leg and a course of powerful antibiotics seem to have brought the problem under control and Lofty is one Safari veteran who will be starting the rally on Sunday.

And then there are certain drivers with enough Safari experience to make them almost local themselves. Bjorn Waldegard has done in the region of 20 Safaris, starting in 1971. He has won the event four times and this year will be the thirtieth anniversary of his first win when he drove an Escort RS1800. He will be co-driven by his son Mathias who was part of the service crew for his father in the 2005 Safari Classic when Bjorn was driving a Porsche 911.

There are quite a few drivers on the Kenya Airways East African Safari Rally 2007 who are at the opposite end of the spectrum of rally experience. Neil McGrigor and Jeremy Bennett, team mates in a pair of bright yellow Iain Freestone prepared Ford Escort Mexicos, are quite prepared to say that they lack Safari Rally experience. In fact they admit, smiling broadly this is our first rally of any kind.

A modest white saloon car drove into the secure area in front of the scrutineering bay, parked and two gentleman got out and started to walk away. They were promptly chased by John Cooper the chief scrutineer and told that they couldn´t park there. Oh, but I own the hotel said the driver. For a moment, disbelief showed in John´s eyes but confirmation was quick in coming. It was indeed the Chief Executive of the Sarova Hotel Group, J.S.Vohra, who had arrived to be present at the evening cocktail thrown for the competitors and officials. Although a Safari fan, he won´t be taking part in the event.

Scrutineer - previously the engineering expertise behind Opel´s Safari successes in the 1980s. Karl-Heinz Goldstein was temporarily relieved of his duties on Thursday morning and sent to check out the first competitive section that will start the Kenya Airways East African Safari Rally 2007 on Sunday morning. The organisers have been concerned by the recent rains and will shortly be issuing some notes from the 3-day car that travels the route ahead of the rally. These are not route changes as such but tell the competitors where the rains and subsequent traffic have modified the roads. At the moment, Mombasa is fine but the rain continues in Nairobi though is forecast to stop before the Safari arrives on Sunday evening. There are murmurings in the parc ferme of a number of teams stocking up on mud tyres just in case

Talking of tyres, Ian Duncan, nine times Kenyan Rally champion and previous winner of the original Safari for Toyota, has been keeping his Ford Mustang under wraps at a secret location near the start at Whitesands. Rumour has it that, as well as very special suspension components supplied by Rob’s Magic, the company run by Rob Collinge who won both previous Safari Classics, the Mustang has some quite large tyres. How large ? Well, Ian did say something about Datsun 260Z drivers being able to look up at them as he drove past …And when he rolled into scrutineering on Friday the bright orange Mustang didn´t disappoint.

It is not just the drivers and co-drivers on the Kenya Airways East African Safari Rally 2007 that have good CVs from rallying. Richard Martin-Hurst´s Ford Capri Perana, a South African born, V8-engined car with many Holden parts in its transmission, has a service crew headed by Tim Riley. Tim is the son of Peter Riley, famous for his 1960s exploits in Austin Healey 3000s and a frequent competitor on the old Safari for Ford, and his mother, Anne Wisdom, was Pat Moss co-driver for many years in everything from Minis and Healeys to Saabs and was also a frequent Safari competitor. Tim has a formidable reputation for car preparation and met Richard´s co-driver, Tony Devantier, on a London-Sydney rally of the early 1990´s. Tim now lives and works in New Zealand.

New Zealand also figures in an incentive scheme organised by Mark Solloway of Historic Rally Sport, one of whose entries is a Ford Escort RS1600 for husband and wife team from Australia, Keith and Mary-Anne Callinan. Keith is a great fan of a particular vintage of New Zealand wine, Cloudy Bay, and it just so happens that Mark has a crate in the back of his management car. Every evening that Keith and Mary-Anne bring the Escort in to service, a bottle of Cloudy Bay will be issued. Let´s just hope it doesn´t affect the early morning wake-up calls.

» Pressrelease från Safarirallyt,

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Nästa deltävling:
Skogsåket 22/05

Rally SM:
Göhlins Skilling 500 18-19/06

Rally VM:
Vodafone Rally de Portugal 20-23/05

Svenska RallyCupen:
Gästabudstrofén 29/05

Foto från:
Uddevalla City Race, del 2.
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Uddevalla City Race.
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