Rob Collinge and co-driver Anton Levitan ran out comfortable victors of the Kenyan Airways East African Safari Rally in the week before Christmas. Their Datsun 240Z finished 48min ahead of Frédéric Dor and Didier Bréton’s Porsche 911, which in turn was 38min clear of the similar Porsche of Stuart Rolt and Richard Tuthill.
This recreation of the old Safari Rally was only open to pre-1972 cars, so that the MkI Escorts were 1760cc BDAs or pushrod Mexicos, while the Datsun and its Porsche rivals were running on carbs rather than injection. The event was run by Mike Kirkland, whose own experience was gained driving works Nissans and who now runs a tour company, Southern Cross Safaris
This combination of expertise resulted in a superb rally which ran for 10 days and 3000 miles across Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. It was tough on the road, but easy on the body as nights were spent in the best accommodation.
In line with its 1960s image, the overseas competitors did not win despite forming almost half of the 53-car entry. Michèle Mouton broke the front suspension of her Escort on the first day and, though rescued, the penalty accrued was almost six hours. The Porsches started rather more cautiously — at Mount Kenya, Dor and Rolt were ninth and 10th respectively — and by the time they were up to speed, the flying Datsun was beyond reach.
Several entries were old Safari hands reliving past times but a large proportion were first-timers travelling to Kenya to experience the legend. Many of these found African roads a tough proposition, and mechanical problems were frequent. However, the format of the event, with its night halts, meant that these could be fixed and an almost full entry departed the following morning.
Among the retirements was Gerard Marcy’s Escort, which went off the road while leading and was too badly damaged to continue. John Lloyd rolled his Escort on the last day and had to watch it bum to a crisp.
At the finish on the sands of Diani Beach, the conversation was that it had been a great event, tougher than expected… And when did entries open for the next one ? JDFD