London to Cape Town World Cup Rally 2012
The Long Way Down - Against the Clock
ARUSHA, TANZANIA - JANUARY 19TH, 2012
On the road again
After a rest-day in Nairobi trying to nail the wheels back on, we set off as dawn was breaking over the city and inched our way into the early-morning traffic heading for the rising sun.
We soon found ourselves on the main highway south to Tanzania – only a few opted for the direct run to Arusha, across the border. The rest were up for the fight of trading places, diving deep into the bush.
Our route today was suggested by none other than Yvonne Mehta, whose husband Shekha won the Safari Rally three times and Yvonne thought a section from this golden-era would be rather appropriate. A loop off the main road, and re-joining it for the road to the frontier after a couple of hours of good gravel, humped-back pipes and small bridges, washaways and gulleys, deep holes and all the rest of the makings of traditional Safari-Rallying. When a finger was being waved across the map with a glass of wine in the other hand, Yvonne was quick to say she had not seen this road for the best part of 30 years. On our route-survey last year, it took a lot of finding.
Today, we first of all had to sound our horn to get a pair of giraffes loping off the track into the bush, and a bit further on, gazelles, then goats, then a herd of cows, then some zebras, all had to be told they could not qualify as spectators. Our course was remote rallying down long mostly-sandy tracks – choking dust clouds cutting visibility in the early-morning sunshine was predictable, so crews started at two-minute intervals. It was an example of Kenyan rally-tracks at their best, but it was not to everyone’s liking… Alastair Caldwell reckoned it was difficult, challenging, and hard, for cars that have already suffered greatly.
Given you can only ever please some of the people some of the time, today’s run proved highly successful. We leave Kenya with no problems in our wheel-tracks, and the local support we have received has been overwhelmingly helpful, and has made a great contribution to individual efforts. The help of two large trucks with full facilities from rally-minded Kenyans eager to get their hands dirty was a great boon yesterday. While all that was going on in the hotel car park, work was proceeding to check the route and carry out public relations in remote villages – this could not have happened without local knowledge and the kind of encouraging support from local expertise willing to help make a success of a unique event visiting Kenya.
Today has not been easy. Underlining just how hard African rallying really is, consider this: Steve Blunt in the Subaru, second overall, posted another good time today but in the process finished with bent front suspension after opting for a change to longer springs yesterday which proved to be too soft...the old adage, “it it’s not broken, why fix it” came to the driver’s lips in recounting his problems at the Tanzania border today.
The Car 6 Porsche of Tomas Prenosil, caught fire while on the back of a truck trying to reach the border – flames engulfed the whole car, including one and their carnets. Francis Tuthill, riding inside the top ten driving a Toyota Hilux, came out of the bush with a bent rear axle and arrived at the hotel on the back of a truck. Car 31, the VW Karmann Ghia, has fuel-pump problems after a dose of fuel so dirty the fuel-pump gave up trying. Car 44, the David Gough Peugeot 504 has alternator problems. Car 40 the Weiss and Schneiders Mercedes 230E, having holed its sump once at the very start of the section to Marsabit, did the same thing again. The Volvo of John Bayliss and Paul Carter struggled through the day with a broken rear panhard rod. The Ford Escort of Mike and Ben Dawson was one of several crews who suffered navigational problems. Owen Turner is looking happier having received a fresh supply of shock-absorbers for his team of three MGs. Jane Edgington was looking less than happy after having a tap at the back from the faster Datsun 510 of Dave Boddy, blinded by the dust – he will re-start tomorrow higher up on safety-grounds. The plucky Maestro received a broken rear light. Car 4, the 504 of Jean-Pierre and Mireille Demierre is back in the event after fixing front suspension. And, rally leader Andy Actman, now running totally showroom-standard front suspension, finished the visit to the African Bush with sparks flying from wires around his loose battery.
Tomorrow we drive a route you can see on YouTube from the 1971 Safari Rally …we are driving from Arusha to Dodoma, and some of this hasn’t changed since the ‘70s.