East Africa Safari Rally Classic: ‘Muddy’ affair as action begins
In a breath taking start to the East African Safari Classic Rally, South African driver Geoff Bell has seized an early lead after a challenging first day. Bell demonstrated remarkable skill, conquering the pivotal 120km-long Stage One of the day.
Currently, Bell navigated by Tim Challen in their Datsun 240Z, holds a commanding lead of 1 minute and 24.40 seconds over defending champion and top Kenyan driver, Baldev Chager. The competition remains fierce, with Italy’s Eugenio Amos closely trailing in third place, just 1 minute and 45.50 seconds behind the leader.
After completing the third and final stage of the day, overnight leader Bell reflected on the challenges, particularly singling out the last stage: “That was a fantastic stage; unfortunately, we had to keep backing off because the engine was getting hot. Otherwise, it was a fantastic stage.”
Chager powering the Porsche 911 navigated by Gareth Dawe, expressed relief at completing the three stages, traversing through tricky terrains that kept him on the edge: “It wasn’t a very good day for us. In the first stage, we had a double puncture, and we had to be very careful to get out of the section. The second and third stages were tricky with high speeds and unpredictability, but we are glad to be done with day one.”
The first leg of the Classic commenced with a bang as Italy’s Eugenio Amos in a Porsche 911 navigated by Paolo Ceci, outwitted the competition to claim the Sokoke to Samburu stage, winning the demanding 120km-long Stage One. The rugged terrain posed a formidable challenge, testing the mettle of all drivers. Amos’s exceptional skill set him apart, posting the fastest time of the stage.
“It was a really nice morning for us in stage one but in stage two we had a failure, we stopped to change a tire then once we got into the car the ignition wasn’t working. So we had to call the technicians which costed us about 10 minutes.” Said Amos.
Despite this setback, Chager clinched the second stage, the 89-kilometer Mackinnon to Mwatate section, marking his first stage win of the 9-day Safari Classic. Amos rebounded to secure his second stage win of the day, triumphing in the third and final section, Mariwenyi to Ngutuni. Two-time Safari Classic champion Ian Duncan, aiming for another victory, concluded the day in 11th place after encountering difficulties in the first stage with his Datsun 280Z. Duncan navigated rough terrain, got stuck in a mud hole, and faced several punctures, making it a challenging day.
“The first stage was really rough in some places. We got stuck in a mud hole before 20 minutes later a car came along a towed us out. We also had several punctures which definitely slowed us down not the best of days but at least we are here at the end.” Said Duncan.
The Czech all-female crew led by renowned singer Olga Lounova navigated by Lilia Khousnoutdinova in a Ople Ascona managed to complete the days stages, finishing 46th overall.
The first day witnessed several incidents, including Piers Daykin rolling in the first stage. Prologue winner John Coyne from Ireland had to replace his gearbox and steering arm after the first stage, while Tuthill’s Evgeny Kireev limped to the end of stage three with three wheels.