Safari Rally — The First 40 Years, by Roger Barnard. Westholme Publishing, Sheffield SI0 1DA. £13.99.
Other than those devoted almost exclusively to photographs, books about rallying fall into three broad categories: narrative, statistical and a combination of both. Books about the Safari Rally — and there have been quite a number — can be similarly slotted. Those of pure statistics I usually check, mark according to accuracy and reliability, then confine to the shelf, ready for reference if required. Narratives, especially those which give opinions based on well founded experience as well as fact, the two readily distinguishable of course, are for reading rather than referring, and when Roger Barnard’s latest volume on the Safari Rally appeared (he was also co-author of The Flying Sikh) I just couldn’t put it down.
Barnard, a Yorkshireman, lived in Kenya from 1966 to 1984 and was closely involved with the Safari in many roles, including competitor. He has amassed much written and other material concerning the event and it is this, supplemented by memorabilia from renowned Safari stalwarts, which forms the basis of this book.
With 216 A4-size pages, it packs a great deal and Barnard covers the highlights of the event from its beginning in 1953 to the present. It opens with chapters on the Safari’s early days and its evolution, whilst later chapters are devoted to Safari regulars, both local and overseas. It is more a story of people than of the event, and there are plenty of black and white photographs, many of them hitherto unpublished. At the end, there is a bibliography, comprehensive results of every Safari to date and an index to names.
As Barnard says in his introduction, no single volume could do justice to all the characters who have played parts in this remarkable rally, but this book does go part of the way and, as a regular visitor to East Africa myself, I like the manner in which it tells of local ‘tricks’ like roadside engine oil changes immediately after negotiating deep water, filling tyres with grass and scrub after running out of tubes and avoiding thorn bushes when circumnavigating mud holes.
For any rally enthusiast, especially Safari fanatics, this is a book worth having.