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Safari Rallyt; Day four - Naivasha to Amboseli.

The tussle for victory on the Kenya Airways East African Safari Classic Rally 2007 continues to provide plenty of excitement. Tonight as the cars pulled in to the Ol Tukai Lodge in Amboseli, Bjorn Waldegård still led in his Ford Escort but he had suffered a torrid day, breaking a steering arm on the first competitive section and losing four minutes to his principal rivals. Gerard Marcy in a Porsche 911, who had been in second place this morning, came up in Waldegård´s dust and lost two minutes but far worse was to befall him when he took a wrong turning in the third section and lost more than a quarter of an hour. These setbacks put him fourth in the overall classification tonight.

Stig Blomqvist took his Escort to its first fastest time on the third section and this was enough to catapult him up into second place ahead of Frederic Dor in a Porsche 911 so that the Historic Motorsport Escorts are currently running 1-2 on the Safari Classic. Saddest story of the day was that Ian Duncan, who set fastest times on the first two sections taking a total of two minutes out of second fastest man on both, Blomqvist, is reported to have broken his Ford Mustang´s gearbox on the third section. Even if his service crew can fix the problem and get him into Amboseli, he will have dropped back considerably in the classification.

Still fifth overall, despite his first taste of serious problems, is Geoff Fielding in a Porsche 911. Even eleven minutes of road penalty to fix a steering problem has not dropped him behind John Lloyd in a Datsun 240Z though the gap has narrowed to just a couple of minutes. Next up in seventh is Steve Perez, who like Fielding is a driver enjoying his first Safari, and whose Datsun 260Z is just a minute ahead of the similar car of Jonathan Savage. Rounding out the top ten are Paul-Eric Jarry in a Porsche 911 and Geoff Bell in a Datsun 180B. With just over an hour of penalties covering the top ten, all are aware that the second half of this unpredictable event can easily prove to be like a game of snakes and ladders.

Generally, the competitive sections today have been very well received by the competitors since they are faster and smoother than some of the sections from the previous three days. Tomorrow, Thursday, is a rest day when the cars can receive extended service before setting out for the second half of the rally down to Tsavo West and Tanzania. The rally restarts Friday morning with a long competitive section up from Amboseli towards Emali.

Provisional results for the top ten, Wednesday evening, 18:00

Pos Driver/Co-driver Vehicle Total penalty

1 Bjorn Waldegard/Mathias Waldegard Ford Escort Mk1 07h32m31s
2 Stig Blomqvist/Ana Goni Ford Escort Mk1 07h42m05s
3 Frederic Dor/Didier Breton Porsche 911 07h44m35s
4 Gerard Marcy/Alain Lopes Porsche 911 07h59m22s
5 Geoff Fielding/Preston Ayres Porsche 911 08h17m48s
6 John Lloyd/Adrian Cavenagh Datsun 240Z 08h19m46s
7 Steven Perez/Michael Stuart Datsun 260Z 08h29m10s
8 Jonathan Savage/Quentin Savage Datsun 260Z 08h30m03s
9 Paul Eric-Jarry/Craig Redelinghuys Porsche 911 08h31m43s
10 Geoff Bell/Steve Harris Datsun 180B 08h34m15s

Notes on the Cars

Car No. 1 Bjorn Waldegard
Mr Waldegard´s first exclamation as he opened the Escort´s door at Amboseli was "Fie Fahn": a Swedish expression which does not indicate the day went entirely well. He suffered problems in each of the three competitive sections: a broken steering ball joint, the loss of fourth gear and a puncture. "That is Safari," he said philosophically. "One day is good and the next day is bad but this Safari is getting a little too unpredictable for my liking." Waldegard is still leading by nine and a half minutes despite these problems.

Car No. 2 Stig Blomqvist
Blomqvist set fastest time on the last section by a minute and a half, and second fastest times on the other two sections. He and co-driver Ana Goni got out of the Ford Escort at Amboseli looking quite fresh and pleased. "No punctures and no problems," said Blomqvist. "It´s good to be here and moving up a few places."

Car No. 3 Gerard Marcy
There was a navigational error in the Belgian Porsche which caused a detour of about 32 kilometres which cost them just under 24 minutes on the last section. It was somewhat silent as the crew climbed out of the car at Amboseli. Marcy said: "The car is still good and there should not be too much work tomorrow."

Car No. 4 Frederic Dor
"We had one really phenomenal piece of luck, one of those things that happen so rarely in rallying. At the Corner Baridi service the two halves of the service crew each thought put eighty litres of petrol in but in fact neither had. I thought the gauge looked a pessimistic so I said stick another twenty litres in. In fact that was all we had and the car ran out of petrol approaching the end of the second section. We just made it into the control but then had to push it out of the control. We were so lucky."

Car No. 5 Ian Duncan
Having set fastest times in the first two competitive sections, Duncan broke his gearbox fifteen kilometres into the third section and is waiting retrieval by the service car. It is definitely his intention to fix the Mustang and continue on Friday morning

Car No. 6 John Lloyd
Lloyd suffered his first mechanical problem of the event in Mike Kirkland´s Datsun 240Z. About a third of the way into the last competitive section it seemed like a rear damper had blown a seal. "We just had to nurse it the rest of the way through," said Lloyd. "But today all the stages were fantastic."

Car No. 7 Keith and Mary Anne Callinan
"That´s the real Africa. Almost like the Nullabor but no kangaroos. We had a puncture in the first competitive section about half way through and then when we changed it the Escort fell off the jack. We hadn´t done our tyre change practice like we should have done. But the rest of the day was great. We got a bit of pace and we could get the car moving and passed a couple of cars which always feels good. And the sandy stuff is always interesting - where you want to go doesn´t have much relevance."

Car No. 8 Steve Perez
Last night the Datsun 260Z was reset on the original Riega suspension and going away from the start this morning they softened up the damper settings. The front end now seems about right and during the rest day the crew will concentrate on the rear end, probably using some of the suspension from Stefano Rocca´s car. "We had no problems with the car," said Perez. "But we had to nurse the car a bit because of the suspension."
Co-driver Mike Stuart said: "We had a small wrong-slot at the end of the second stage but we were so close to the finish that we could come back to the main track and I don´t think it cost us any time. Steve and I are now working much better together at identifying some of these tracks and roads so we´re both a bit more relaxed about that."

Car No. 10 Geoff Fielding
"We broke the steering rack mountings of the Porsche in the first section this morning but managed to get out with hardly any loss of time. There wasn´t much we could do in the short service so we just bodged the mountings and carried on into the second stage. Of course it didn´t last long but again we got it out of the stage with only a few minutes lost but then we had to fix it properly and we took probably eleven minutes road section penalty before the last stage. This meant that we had a lot of cars in front of us and to add to our woes the gear lever broke. But this doesn´t mean I´m not enjoying myself and I´m still pleasantly amazed at how well we´re doing."

Car No. 11 Graham Alexander
"The full story of our problems yesterday is that towards the end of the second stage both bolts fell out of the bottom of a front strut. We fixed it in the stage by taking one bolt out of the other strut and using it to fix the broken one. The sad part was that just a couple of kilometres after the finish of the stage we hit a massive drift and one bolt was not strong enough to hold the suspension. There was a bang and wheel and strut disappeared over the bushes. We had to wait there for our service car and lost a bundle of time before we got into Naivasha last night. Today I´m afraid that the engine has lost a couple of cylinders thanks to broken valve springs in a four cylinder 260Z. We´ve been driving a bit more slowly and in fact we stopped twice on the last long stage because we thought there might be someone behind us, but there wasn´t."

Car No. 15 Richard Martin-Hurst
"You know the starter trouble we had yesterday, well it wasn´t the starter. The ring gear on the aluminium flywheel had broken and thus we spent all yesterday evening taking the gearbox out to fix the flywheel. Fortunately that´s now working ok and the car has gone well today to the point where we can actually say we´re enjoying ourselves."

Car No. 16 Steven Troman
From co-driver Martin Rowe: "The car´s been perfect and Steve´s driven brilliantly. Today was faster and more enjoyable. It was amazing to do a 131 kilometre stage. The character was changing all the time from quick open stuff to sandy, nadgery tracks through the bush. As a co-driver it keeps you on your toes and it was a bit stressful as it´s difficult navigationally. But it was just great and we finished today on a real high."

Car No. 18 Jayant Shah
"Well I must say it´s nice to come into the parc ferme in the daylight. The car is now running really well and the only trouble we had today was on the third section when the bonnet pins came out of the front and the bonnet flew open. Fortunately we saw it happen and were able to stop before the bonnet wrapped itself round the windscreen."

Car No. 19 Paul Kane
"I thought the exhaust was dragging on the ground but when we got here we discovered the Pan hard rod had sheared. It always happens at the end of the day. And also the exhaust is blowing quite badly. We also had two punctures both on the same side. The last thing I want to do at the age of 61 is fix punctures."

Car No. 20 Paul-Eric Jarry
"Pretty good day on the whole. We had a puncture on the first stage and stopped to change it then nothing happened until two kilometres before the end of the last stage when I hit a tree. Really enjoying it."

Car No. 21 Jonathan Savage
"That was awesome. Lovely sections and much faster. In the last section I went a bit agricultural and nearly took out a couple of trees. We replaced the shocks yesterday but I think we might have the same problem with a bust bump stop in the rear suspension."

Car No.22 Albert Michiels
"We had no problems with the Porsche today and really enjoyed it. However a few things have started dropping off the car." At this point M. Michiels turned round and discovered that one of them was the driver´s wing mirror.

Car No. 25 John Rose
"Just before we went into the second stage we could hear a noise and when we looked we thought it was just the exhaust touching but ten kilometres into the stage a propshaft universal joint failed at high speed. It didn´t come into the cockpit but we knew we needed a spare to fix it. I couldn´t get a mobile signal where we are but a guy passing on a motocross bike leant the bike to me and I went up the hill to get a signal. Then he leant me the bike to go and get the bike which Michael then fitted." It should be noted that John was Kenyan motocross champion in 1970 and still rides enduros to keep fit for rallying.

Car No. 26 Josef Pointinger
"We had a little bit of everything today. Before the first stage the Escort got a misfire and this stayed with us all the way through the section. We changed the plugs before the second stage and that was fine but then we met a whole herd of cows which didn´t want to make way for the car. On the last section we nearly hit a private car coming the other way. It was much much faster today: too fast for our car but the last section was really good."

Car No. 29 Aslam Khan
"We had a good day today. There were no problems and now we´re just going to try to drive for a finish. We lost the intercom for the last 70 kilometres of the last section."
From the co-driver: "Losing the intercom was fine - it meant the driver couldn´t swear at me."

Car No. 30 Hardev Singh Sira
The Peugeot 504 went fine and completed all three competitive sections. Unfortunately on the first section the tripmetre automatically recalibrated itself and began to run slow which meant a triple caution jump came up with no warning. The Peugeot took a bit of a nosedive and damaged the front but both the crew and the car were fine. The biggest effect was to lower the engine in the chassis by bending the cross member. The crew drove the next two sections and really enjoyed them.

Car No. 31 Imi Dewji
"It was nice to have a full day´s rallying at last."
From co-driver Gabriele Mahler: "No problems, nice fast roads: good for the car, good for us."

Car No. 32 Larry Horn
"We had a nice day and the sections were much more interesting. The car´s been fine."

Car No. 33 Roddy Sachs
´"Really enjoying it and going well. Nothing with the car - all we had to do was put petrol in it."

Car No. 34 Ian and Val Swan
"Nice to do three stages and not give the boys any work to do. All we did all day was take petrol and replace one tyre. We really enjoyed these fast stages. The road book was excellent and everything came up just spot on."

Car No. 41 Kurt Vanderspinnen
"Our problems really started after the first stage on the first day. When we came out onto the main road the car was losing power and when we got to the main service it was decided that we should change all four pistons in the Volvo engine. That took us about ten hours and we got into Nairobi at three in the morning. Second day was a little better with three punctures but then on the third day we broke a wheel on a rock hidden in the grass on the first section and as a result the car was stuck and needed a service car to come in and get it out so that was the only stage we did that day. However today has gone really nicely and hopefully our problems are behind us and we can enjoy the second half of the rally."

Car No. 42 Bert Dolk
"Today was great. I really liked the last section. It was really good: flat out in fourth gear. We were running a bit low on fuel and no way of accurately measuring it so we decided to take it easy through the last twenty kilometres but overall it was great."

Car No. 43 Tim Mammen
"We caught Martin-Hurst´s Capri on the first stage and at one point thought that we might even get past but we had a small off in his dust and bent a front tie rod which slowed us a bit but was worse when it actually snapped six kilometres from the end of the stage. But now it´s fixed, although the car still handles peculiarly. And hopefully we can find the cause for that tomorrow. Incidentally I can confirm that today we were running with the full set of wheel nuts."

Car No. 44 Neil McGrigor
"It was a good day but it was more suited to the faster cars. Those Datsuns excelled in the circumstances so they´ve been catching us up on the straight bits but then we were catching them in the twist sections, regretting having let them past before. We had no problems today so it´s been the best day we´ve had yet."

Car No. 45 Geoff Bell
"A good run until the last stage. When we slowed for a triple caution bump the car slid off in the sand, into the ditch and bent the steering. To add insult to injury while we got out of the ditch and fixed it several cars went through."

Car No. 46 Minesh Rathod
"The car finally behaved today and we had a thoroughly enjoyable time. Our problems were mainly on the first day when we broke a left arm on the front suspension during the first stage and lost the steering on the second stage. Every day after that we had problems with the idler arm bending but that is now pretty well sorted."

Car No. 47 Peter Harland
"Today was lovely. Really nice stages and very fast. The navigator did extremely well and the car is running like a humming bird. We also caught someone which always makes you feel good."

Car No. 48 Ekya and Prina Shah
"We had a great day. It was just a shame that the car stopped in the middle of the last section and wouldn´t start. We had to get the service crew in and it was then we found out one of the leads had pulled off the distributor."

Car No. 49 Jeremy Bennett
"We´re very much alive and kicking. In fact we´re getting quite extrovert. In the middle of the last stage we turned a little early in a village and to correct things I had to do a 360 spin in the middle of the village square in front of all the school children who seemed to find it very entertaining."

Car No. 50 Nick Mason
"The problem yesterday was a whole lot of damage in the rear end including not just the differential carrier beam but also quite a lot of the bodywork supports. We had to totally rebuild the entire rear end. Today we´ve had just one small problem, comparatively: the left rear damper has popped through the turret but that´s not hard to fix. After the event I need to go home, think about what happened, and how to prepare the car accordingly."
From co-driver Adrian Grinstead: "Yes it´s definitely a car wrecker this one."

Car No. 58 Michel Puchercos
"We hit a few birds today but that was the worst thing since we didn´t get lost despite it being hard to find the right way at the end of the third section. The car is very solid and doesn´t seem to give any trouble and we´re going well."

Cars Nos 12 & 14 Alexander Hack and Bo Axlesson have retired and the cars are on the way to Mombasa.

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