In punishing weather, champion Blomqvist sees great Safari
Stig Blomqvist said the ongoing rains only serve to spice up the Safari Classic as he embarks on his title defence bid on Thursday.
The Swede was first off the ramp as he led 30 cars in his Porsche 911 through the 4000km adventure in Kenya and Tanzania, a day after officials finalized all paperwork including border crossing logistics for rally crews.
Blomqvist was all smiles on Wednesday as Team Tido signed on to finalize their documentation but candidly admitted that the treacherous weather conditions will play a part in carving out the champion.
The 1984 World Rally Champion reiterated that rains will rekindle memories of the old type Safari Rally.
“It seems to be very tricky at the moment with the wet weather but that’s Safari. I was out there testing the car and all seemed to be okay. We will see what the weather brings out there.
“There are drivers with lots of experience so it should be interesting how the battle pans out. We are looking forward to seeing old friends, a good event and good competition too.
“There are lots of old and young guys in the competition who want to prove their machines’ worth so we can only hope for the very best,” Blomqvist said.
Scrutineers were involved in the final push well in time for the shakedown which treated Coast fans at Vipingo Ridge in North Coast were treated to some exhilarating displays of Safari Classic artistry.
The 6km shakedown organized by title sponsors Kenya Airways and East African Safari Rally was Wednesday’s highlight action.
Although the French teams failed to make it to this year’s competition, Kenya’s Raaji Singh Bharij was content with the strong field.
“We are mentality excited but fatigued. I mean it’s been a long journey building the car. And Rajay and I like doing most of it ourselves, so it has been really good coz I know the car very well, mechanically.
“We are tired but very excited. The quality of entry this year is good so we are looking forward to some very good competition. It is really good coming out here and giving some exposure to our sponsors Intra Africa. It’s a long rally I mean everybody enters an event thinking of finishing,” Bharij said.
Multiple national champion Carl Tundo who has won the ARC Safari four times will be itching to lay his hands on the coveted Safari Classic title for the first time since making his driving debut two years ago.
Ian Duncan who has won the Safari Classic twice will be attempting the unprecedented third win behind the wheel of a Ford Capri.
Duncan, the most successful Kenya National Rally Championship driver, is seeded fourth behind multiple former Kenya champion Baldev Chager who will be making his debut on the driving seat after navigating former Kenya National Division Two Champion Onkar Rai on the last two editions.
And having already taken some impressive scalps in the KNRC, Chager or the “Flying Singh” can surely not be taken lightly despite his debut on the driving seat.
Chager will drive one of the three Porsche 911 sponsored by Kabras Sugar which is a sister brand to Tundo’s Top Fry.
The all Kenyan team of Jonathan Somen and partner Richard Hechle have done three Safari Classics and this year will be their fourth.
In 2015, the duo had just climbed into the top 10 when the our “eye” in their distributor failed and their crew were miles away as we were still on the tarmac out of Arusha. Somen said he has unfinished business for the classic.
Somen and Hechle were Kenyan classic champions once though they don’t do the full season in the years of the Classic.
Some other foreigners to watch include South Africa oldie Geoff Bell, Argentine Viking Motorsports driver Jorge Perez Compnc.
Team Tido’s Roger Samuelsson of Sweden and Scott Armstrong are also in Mombasa to start the long journey.
HOW THEY STARTED
- Stig Blomqvist /Matias Edelson (TEAM TIDO-Porsche 911/SWEDEN)
- Carl Tundo /Tim Jessop (Triumph TR7/KENYA)
- Baldev Singh Chager (KABRAS SUGAR RACING-Porsche 911/KENYA)
- Ian Duncan (Ford Capri/KENYA)
- Geoff Bell (BEST WHYSKEY-Datsun 260Z/SOUTH AFRICA)
- Jorge Perez Companc (VIKING MOTORSPORTS-Ford Escort RS1800/ARGENTINA)
- Richard Jackson (Porsche 911/GREAT BRITAIN)
- Raaji Bharij (Intra Africa Insurace-Porsche 911/KENYA)
- Onkar Singh Rai (KABRAS SUGAR RACING -Porsche 911-KENYA)
Thursday Program (Day 1 for first car)
6.00am: Start Whitesands
7.05am.. CS1-Kasava-Samburu 94.07km
8.57am: CS2-Mackinon Road Taita Grid 90.53km
2.34am: CS3-Iseneti-Irime 29km
3.19am. Ol Tukai Lodge Amboseli
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