After the RAC Rally, everything started happening at once; or perhaps it would be more correct to say that everything stopped happening, for it was the sudden end of activity which was the more noticeable. The fuel shortage prompted the RAC to announce that all rallying in Britain would be suspended until further notice. On the surface there seemed little out of place with that decision, for any means of reducing the nation’s consumption of petrol seemed to be worthwhile. But what upset Britain’s rallying fraternity was that the initial announcement referred only to rallying. All other forms of motoring sport were to be allowed to continue.
Rallying people are not so lacking in the proper spirit that they take more kindly to the curb on their own pleasures if all others are also curtailed. The man is stupid who bears the pain of an injury better if he knows that others are being subjected to the same hurt. But what really did cause an upset was the fact that the first announcement from Belgrave Square was that all permits issued to rally organisers would be withdrawn, whereas there was no mention of doing likewise to other events. This was like being treated as the poor relation, and it didn’t go down at all well.
In the meantime, various restrictions were being introduced in other countries, both in Europe and beyond, and at the time of writing there is a wholesale stoppage of rallying at all levels in most parts of the world. I say most and not all, because some organisers of prestige events have issued statements that their events will take place despite the fuel shortage, in such high regard are they held.
In Finland, for instance, the organisers of the Arctic Rally (Marlboro-sponsored in 1974) have announced that their event will take place. It is scheduled for the end of January and since it will then have the double attraction of being a first-class adventure in its own right and of being the only winter event which seems to have surprised the spate of cancellations, the chances are that it will turn out to be even more popular than it has ever been.
Of course, these words are being written against the clock, and as we went to press steps were being taken in Finland to exempt the Arctic Rally from a ban on all motor Sporting events in that country until May 28.
At the other end of the climatic extreme, another rally seems not to he in danger of cancellation—the East African Safari Rally. This is considered so important to the country’s international prestige, and indeed even to her economy, that the Kenya Government has given its full support and the situation at the time of writing is that the event will take place, come what may.
Originally an event spanning all three East African countries, the Safari will be contained within Kenya alone in 1974. The troubles in Uganda led the organisers to decide not to cross into that country, whereas a demand by Tanzania for another start/ finish at Dar es Salaam led them to choose Kenya alone, a decision which was backed to the hilt by the country’s Government. The organisational problems caused by haying the 1972 event based at Dar and that of 1970 in Kampala were enormous, and it has since been realised that there is only one home for the Safari—Nairobi, where facilities for communication and transport, to name but two essentials, are so much better than they are in the neighboring capitals.
That Kenya alone can cater for a Safari and contain within her borders the kind of demanding route for which it has become known cannot be doubted. Indeed, the country has such a wealth of the sort of rough tracks which make rallymen drool that it could run into two Safaris simultaneously and not have them cross.
In December we spent two weeks surveying the proposed route of the 1974 Safari and we can say without doubt that it’s going to be the toughest yet. The cutting out of the Tanzanian and Ugandan sections led the AA of East Africa to seek a route in an area hitherto unused by the event, Kenya’s Northern Frontier District. This vast desert area is so wild and arid that it represents a considerable change from the dusty (or muddy) murram roads in the fertile South. It will be far rockier and rougher than before and will put an even greater emphasis on car strength and reliability rather than sheer speed and performance. Of course, a lot depends on the weather, and it could be that river crossings will provide many additional hazards, even in the desert, when the waters from the mountainous catchment areas begin to fill the dry beds.
To us, the character of a rally depends not only on the geography of its country but on its people, and in this respect we feel that the East African Safari is rich indeed. We spent considerable time among the bush people of the North, particularly the Turkana tribe, and we have nothing but admiration for their way of life. Friendly and industrious, they were eager to trade and to exchange stories, and were typical of the people who do much to make the East African Safari the adventure which it is.
When we left Kenya, the flags and festive atmosphere of the Uhuru Anniversary celebrations still evident, there were vague rumours that petrol may become short, but counteracting them was the determination that the Safari should take place, come what may. In the absence of other events in Europe, it could easily become one of the most hotly contested rallies for some time. It could certainly cause a few eye-openers in France, for the Alpine team is said to be sending three cars. In East Africa the locals don’t appear to consider the. little blue cars as very serious contenders for the Safari but we warned them against such underestimation for any car which can win the Morocco Rally must be a match for anything no matter how rough the terrain.
A third event which seems to be going ahead without any fuel problems is the 1974 World Cup Rally which is scheduled to leave London on May 5th and arrive in Munich on May 25th. Backed financially by UDT, this event began on paper as a very ambitious tour of the African Continent, the Middle East and Europe, both East and West. Problems both diplomatic and climatic (foreseen by some people outside the organisational team) forced the revision of the route and the final regulations list the following countries to be visited: England, France, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Algeria, Niger, Nigeria, Tunisia, Turkey, Russia, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Germany.
The appeal and the adventure of a transworld rally is without doubt, but we have always voiced against the effect such events have on the regular, annual rallies near them in the calendar and the competitors who take part in them. Ironically, the petrol crisis has disposed of many of these, so there could well be an increase in interest in the World Cup Rally. But so far the East African Safari remains in the calendar for the Easter weekend, and given a choice between World Cup and Safari, we know full well which we would chose.—G.P.