In the endurance struggle that is the East African Safari Classic Rally, with just one day and three competitive sections to go, the point is normally reached when one would expect to find competitors separated by whole fractions of an hour and looking to conserve their positions in the classification not to mention preserving their cars. For many competitors, this is the case but, up front, the situation is that the two leaders are separated by seconds and are still going for victory ‘hammer and tongs’.
Stig Blomqvist left Naivasha this morning in his Tuthill Porsche 911 with a scanty lead of fifty-nine seconds over Ian Duncan in his Ford Capri V8 and promptly made his mark by setting a fastest time on the first competitive section that was three minutes and three seconds faster than his pursuer who suffered a puncture.
But then Blomqvist’s luck took a downturn and he sustained a puncture and lost four minutes and eight seconds to Duncan who promptly moved back into the front with a lead of six seconds over the Swedish, ex-World Rally Champion. On the third and last competitive section of the day, it was Duncan who again had the advantage and extended his lead – by another three seconds to a total of nine seconds.
Behind these two, there have been few changes. The Horseys had been looking to make progress themselves on the man ahead of them, Steve Perez in the Amigos Datsun 260Z who had started the day more than six minutes ahead of them. However they are still over three minutes behind Perez and another Kenyan crew Rai and Chager have made up some time and are now only 16 seconds behind them.
By virtue of a sterling performance on the first section, Gregoire de Mevius put his BMA Porsche 911 back into the top ten by gobbling up the thirteen seconds that he lagged behind Phillipe van Heurck also Porsche mounted. He then led van Heurck by more then two and half minutes. He repeated the performance on the second section going two and half minutes quicker than Kenyan, Manvir Baryan in a Porsche 911 to grab ninth place overall, albeit by a mere five seconds. At the end of the day, he was promoted to eighth by Geoff Bell’s misfortunes in his Datsun 260Z who broke his differential on the third section. However de Mevius stands little hope of advancing further without major trouble striking those ahead of him since he lies almost twenty-three minutes behind John Lloyd in his Viking Autosport Ford Escort Mk2 in seventh place.
Friday is the last day of competition and see the remaining crews tackle three stages all very similar to the three that started this rally eight days ago last Thursday. These three sections total one hundred and ninety kilometres and there will be several prayers being offered up tonight by the surviving crews : freedom from mechanical problems, no punctures and a good clean run back to the Whitesands Hotel outside Mombasa. But all eyes will be on Duncan and Blomqvist as they struggle for victory in Ford Capri and Porsche 911 respectively.
Car no. 3 Ian Duncan/Amaar Slatch Ford Capri V8 Perana
We had a puncture on the first section today. It was about half way through and it wasn’t one of our best efforts at changing a wheel ! Otherwise the car is OK and we had really quite a good day. I did wonder if Stig wasn’t going to try to beat us on the last section in the Taitas – it was more European with all those hairpins. But maybe he just didn’t want to run first on the road tomorrow.
Car no. 5 Stig Blomqvist/Staffan Parmander Porsche 911
The first section was good but we didn’t know about Ian’s puncture until we got to the holding area. Then – of course – we had one of our own. This was about twenty-five kilometres into the second section. And on that one, there were trucks going around and at one point we had to stop as there was one truck overtaking another and we had to wait for him to finish ! This last section in the Taitas was really rough. You drive over these stones and ruts and wait for the car to disintegrate – but thankfully it shows no signs of doing that just yet.
Car no. 6 Gérard Marcy/Stéphané Prevot Porsche 911
No problems for us. We are being as careful as we can to keep third place and not have any trouble. The throttle was sticking a bit [this Porsche has fuel injection with butterflies] on that last section and we need to get it seen to in service. The only other things we can report is that we saw lots of animals on the second section but were too busy to keep count !
Car no. 7 Steve Perez/John Millington Datsun 260Z
The last two sections were just so very, very rough. It seems a shame since the road section on gravel into that last one was a really nice rally road – smooth as anything. Why not use roads like that for the competitive bits ? It seems so very hard on the car and unnecessarily rough. Anyway, no problems to report but I think we have a different coloured Porsche chasing us tomorrow. I feel like a gazelle being chased by two local lions!
Car no. 8 David Horsey / Alex Horsey Porsche 911
We stopped at the end of the last section and discovered that Steve [Perez] had just beaten us on that one but we had taken some time out of him earlier. This has been a really tough day. The second section was unbelievably rough in places and this last one was not so good either, typical Taitas however. Touch wood, but we seem to be avoiding punctures. Our only problem was during the second stage when in the rough parts we were driving so much in lower gears and the engine lost some power. But the Tuthill boys seemed to find it again at the service.