Twin win in African classic

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British team shares victory in the world’s toughest classic rally

An arranged tie brought the 2017 East African Safari Classic to an unlikely finish after a typically demanding nine-day rally across Kenya and Tanzania. Yorkshiremen Ryan Champion and Richard Jackson were declared joint winners with Kenyan ace Carl Tundo and his co-driver Tim Jessop.

A ruling by the event stewards resulted in the joint victory after most of the field got stuck in a mud hole on day seven. At the time, Jackson and Champion (Porsche 911) were leading by two minutes but the mud hole halted all but four of the competing cars.

Tundo (Triumph TR7 V8) saw the cars stuck ahead and re-routed around the section and gained about an hour. After lengthy deliberations, and with the approval of both crews, the results were amended to produce joint winners for the first time in the event’s history. Champion and Jackson duly became the first British drivers to win the world’s toughest historic rally, which had previously only been won by Kenyans or Swedish aces Bjorn Waldegard and Stig Blomqvist.

“That’s been eight days of the toughest rally in the world,” said Champion. “It was an amazing rally and an amazing experience and mentally draining. We came to an agreement and were declared joint winners after the issues on day seven.”

This was never an easy run for Champion and Jackson, who shared the driving of Jackson’s Tuthill-prepared Porsche. They were stuck in a river on the first day and had to be pushed out by locals, on day two they lost all brakes for 50 miles and on day five they broke a shock absorber after 60 miles of a 100-mile stage.

Champion and Jackson joined Colin McRae and Richard Burns (top right) as the only British winners of the rally bearing the East African Safari tag. McRae and Burns were both winners of the original rally when it was a round of the World Rally Championship. First run in 1953 to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, it later joined the World Rally Championship and was renowned as the toughest and longest event of the season. It counts many of the greatest names in the sport among its winners including Ari Vatanen, Juha Kankkunen and Carlos Sainz.

The rally was dropped from the WRC for 2003 due to financial and organisational issues. In truth, its format of incredibly long sections on roads still open to general traffic was increasingly at odds with the modern-day World Rally Championship.

The future of the rally even in its classic guise is now also under threat. This year saw a significant drop in entries. From a capacity field of 60 cars in recent times, the latest edition had just 36 starters and 26 finishers. Some estimates put the cost of competing on the rally at well over £100,000, starting with an entry fee of £30,000.

Sadly, the event was marred by the death of rally chairman Jaideep Singh Vohra, following a road accident early in the rally. “We believed that JS would have wanted the rally to go on, and we believed the 2017 event should continue in his memory,” said Clerk of the Course Richard Leeke.

FORMULA JR JUBILEE

A celebration of the world’s most successful historic racing category, Formula Junior, will be the key historic racing feature at Autosport International at the Birmingham NEC later this month (11-14 January).

The Historic Sports Car Club will feature Formula Junior on its central display as the single-seater class celebrates its 60th birthday. The stand will showcase six of the period single-seaters, one from each year of the category that ran from 1958 to 1963. It spanned the era when racing car designs went from front- to rear-engined.

The 2018 season is a special year for Formula Junior as the category’s 60th year is also the final season of a three-year Diamond Jubilee World Tour. The Tour, which has already visited Australia and New Zealand, South Africa and North America, will finally conclude with four races and more than 100 cars at the Silverstone Classic in July.

Duncan Rabagliati of the Formula Junior Historic Racing Association said: “2018 is also the 25th anniversary of the FJHRA and the race at Mallory Park in 1993 when FJHRA and HSCC first came together to save the Historic Formula Junior race series. It is truly fitting that we should both be celebrating the success of this great little formula, 25 years later.”

Today, Formula Junior has racing on five continents for over 300 active cars. It is for racing cars using production-based engines of up to 1100cc. An amazing variety of chassis makes it an incredibly diverse category and though the leading designs are from Lotus, Brabham and Lola, up to 150 marques built cars in period.

First conceived by Count Johnny Lurani in Italy, it was an international category for just six seasons from 1958 to 1963 before Formula 3 took over in 1964. Yet in those years it helped many future stars make their mark in the sport.

CHEVRON HONOURS

The first race ever dedicated to the Chevron B8 will honour 50 years of the timeless sports-racing car at the Oulton Park Gold Cup next August.

The Chevron B8 first raced in March 1968 and now a single-make race for the model, and its forebear the B6, will mark half a century of Derek Bennett’s design, which remains one of the most popular and successful cars in historic racing.

The cars were built in a former mill in Bolton and were regularly tested and raced at the Cheshire track in period. Over the ensuing half-century, the B8 has claimed many victories at Oulton Park, making it the perfect setting to celebrate this classic design.

The Historic Sports Car Club is aiming at a grid of more than 20 cars for this race, which will be a central attraction at the annual Gold Cup meeting on Bank Holiday Monday.

More than 40 B8s were built during 1968 as GT or Group 4 cars, many with 2-litre BMW engines although some used Ford-based FVA or FVC engines. During the previous year, Chevron produced six or seven examples of the model, initially called the GT. Later the GT was re-named as the B6. Chevron built more B8s than any other model but the company faltered after Bennett died in a hang-gliding accident in 1978.

Grahame White, Chief Executive Officer of the HSCC, was sales manager at Chevron in the early 1970s and came up with the idea: “We thought it was very appropriate to mark the Chevron B8’s 50th anniversary with a race at Oulton Park. Derek Bennett was a truly gifted race car designer and constructor but was a very unassuming character. I think he would be amazed, but quietly rather pleased, that we are going to celebrate 50 years of one his most successful designs.”

SEASON’S MEETINGS

The two big hitters in European historic racing, Masters Historic Racing and Peter Auto, have unveiled their 2018 calendars, and both organisations are introducing new tracks to their schedules.

Masters have withdrawn from the Iberian Peninsula and dropped early- and late-season events at Barcelona and Estoril. Instead, the season will open with a first visit to the Imola track in Italy in April and finish at the established Dijon Motors Cup in October. Peter Auto will also visit Imola for its final event of the season, the Imola Classic (October 26-28).

The Espiritu de Montjuich event at Barcelona in early April, which remembers the Spanish Grand Prix races held in Montjuich Park, has found an alternative slot as the opening event on the Peter Auto schedule for its package comprising Classic Endurance Racing 1 & 2, Heritage Touring Cup, Sixties’ Endurance, Trofeo Nastro Rosso, Euro F2 Classic and Group C Racing.

Masters will run five major series as the new Endurance Legends category joins FIA Masters Historic Formula One, FIA Masters Historic Sports Car, Gentlemen Drivers and Masters Pre-66 Touring Cars.

Peter Auto has dropped its trek to the Hungaroring after disappointing grids for its debut visit last September, but Masters has added a new date at the Most circuit in the Czech Republic in late June. Masters will have traditional UK dates at Brands Hatch (May 26-27) and the Silverstone Classic (July 20-22).

Masters founder Ron Maydon said: “We are very excited about our 2018 European season. We are looking forward to offering our drivers some new and exciting venues.”

 

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