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The East African Safari Classic Rally 2019

The East African Safari Classic Rally 2019

Another edition of the Safari Classic Rally is currently in progress and, as always, I’m running the Tuthill Porsche media feeds. With ten cars under its wing, the team is enjoying a decent event. Yesterday was rally day seven and three Tuthill-built 911s finished the day in the top three positions: a fortunate position after thousands of kilometres of competitive rallying on this famously brutal contest.

The entry list for 2019 was smaller than previous editions; fewer than thirty cars entered and only twenty-two cars started the rally. The lower entry numbers can be ascribed to a number of factors, including cost, perceived risk and alternatives. There were also some issues in management and communications during and after the 2017 edition, following the death of one of the managing partners in a mid-event car crash. The fallout cast a traumatic shadow over what had otherwise been another tough but exciting Safari.

Putting things right took a lot of hard work. After 2017, the organisers put considerable effort into modernising its processes, with a major personnel shakeup and big changes in transparency and stewarding. As was promised in discussions and competitor workshops through 2018, the changes delivered a much-improved structure for 2019 and the organisers – headed by a new Clerk of Course – have done a magnificent job this year.

The Safari Classic entry list is restricted to cars from the glory days of Safari: 2wd non-turbo cars pre-1986 that conform to FIA historic regulations. Many cars have won the event, with Mk1 and Mk2 Escorts, 240Zs and 911s all down as previous winners.

The rally takes place over vast swathes of East Africa. While the event is run entirely on open public roads, the logistics including car shipping, accommodation, route mapping, marshalling, medical helicopters etc are huge and it is not cheap to compete. Entry fees for international drivers including car shipping and three twin hotel rooms for the rally duration are set at $34,000, with local entries costing $12,500. Add the cost of car prep before and re-prep after, the cost of hiring support and bringing in parts and the cost of putting up team and supporters and the costs soon soar. This is not a poor man’s sport.

Kenya has a highly active national championship and locals stage another Safari-style rally earlier in the year. Subsidised by wealthy competitors, the earlier rally has lower entry fees and no participant support, so drivers sort out their own shipping, accommodation and so on. If one only wants to rally against local friends and rivals, the smaller event might fit the bill. As most club rally folk do not have the resources to refurbish a rally car twice in six months, this leads to inevitable consequences for the big Safari’s entry list.

Safari Classic entries may have been down this year but the calibre of entrant remained pretty strong. Six-time Kenyan champion, Ian Duncan, was entered in a new Rover SD1 build. Three Kabras Sugar 911 entries included the triple Safari Rally winner, Baldev Chager.

Three Team Tidö Race4Health 911s included the former world rally champion and 2015 Safari Classic winner, Stig Blomqvist. Former Austrian national rally champion and three-time national historic champion, Kris Rosenberger (below), was also entered in a Tuthill 911 that had competed in several earlier events with its previous owner. He would be co-driven by partner, Nicola (Niki) Bleicher, on her first rally in Africa.

The weather through Kenya and Tanzania in the weeks before Safari was wet on an epic scale. Heavy rains in the mountains washed away many roads and bridges and some cancelled stages would be inevitable. Nevertheless, the rally began in Mombasa on November 27th and the competitors completed day one with the first three stages of the 2019 event.

The end of the day saw Kabras Porsches first and second, Blomqvist third and Rosenberger fourth. Three seconds separated first and second, then it was seven minutes back to Blomqvist and Rosenberger: the Austrian less than a minute off Stig. The front two were setting a super hot pace, but Safari is all about surviving the long haul.

Day two brought the first big change at the front. Chager ran well in the first two stages but failed to start the third of the day. This cost more than two hours in penalties and moved him out of the top ten. As team mate Onkar Rai took the lead, Rosenberger outpaced Stig: Nicola was learning to manage the notes and the pair closed the gap to the lead to under three minutes.

Huge rains in the mountains around Arusha in Tanzania lead to the cancellation of all stages on day three, but the cars got racing again the day after. Blomqvist came out with guns blazing, setting the fastest time on stage one. Onkar Rai responded, going quickest on two, but the day’s third stage again hurt the Kabras team and Rai suffered damage. He moved down to fifth overall and Rosenberger took over the lead with Blomqvist some thirty seconds behind. Kabras driver, Tejveer Rai, was now in third.

Day five is the mid-point of the rally and what’s known as ‘rest day’. Drivers get a chance to catch up on sleep, relax or go sightseeing while the crews prepare the cars for four more days of torture. In an extended six-hour service, every Tuthill car is stripped, checked and rebuilt ready for rally part two. This is made possible by a huge team effort, including a mobile parts base shipped from the UK and a devoted tyre station with two tyre guys managing the thirty-six tyres allotted to each car for the nine-day event.

The scale of Tuthill’s presence in Africa is akin to manufacturers on world championship events and many of the mechanics looking after these 911s in Kenya are ex-WRC, so operate efficiently under extreme pressure. The team has run as many as seventeen cars on previous editions and, given the sums clients are paying to complete the event successfully, there is a pressing commercial case for the highest possible level of technical support.

Compared to how solo competitors with simpler aspirations go rallying in Africa, the Wardington army may seem like overkill, but if you want to start ten cars, rally them flat out for nine days and thousands of kilometres in an environment as harsh as this and get them all across the finish line nine days later, it is difficult to overcook the support. The detailed campaign is a giant leap forward on how privateers used to go rallying back in the day, but what clients expect nowadays on tortuous, far-flung events.

Today was the penultimate day of the 2019 East African Safari Classic Rally and it was a typical day of Safari highs and lows, as seen in Richard’s latest video diary (below – see the full set on the Tuthill Porsche YouTube channel). From securing loose goats to losing a podium place within sight of the finish with an unfortunate landing, the rally is all about highs and lows, but that is why devotees love it so much.

As we wait for the final stages of day nine to begin, 6.8 seconds separate Blomqvist and Rosenberger at the front of the field. That exciting story is about to conclude, but this rally is packed with stories equally as thrilling right through the order. From those drivers who save for a lifetime to experience this event, to the people who help run and operate it, to the spectators who take so much energy from brief glimpses of rally cars once every two years, Safari Classic is an incredible spectacle.

Whatever happens tomorrow, I hope the organisers can continue to build upon the overhaul of their internal structures and entice more cars back to Kenya in 2021. This event and the spirit and heritage it honours merits huge respect and success: it is one of a kind and unique in the world.

Photos by McKlein Photography ©Tuthill Porsche


Ferdinand blogs my freelance adventure with Porsche at the centre. To support the blog or engage with me in other ways, you can:

A Castle and a Conscience

A Castle and a Conscience

Sweden’s Team Tidö Race4Health has entered three Porsche 911s on this year’s East African Safari Classic Rally. The lead car features the one and only Stig Blomqvist, with the other two driven by Race4Health patron, Roger Samuelsson, and a new man: Trey Lockey, from Miami. Asked to write some driver bios for the Safari Rally souvenir programme, I put in a call to Team Tidö chief, David von Schinkel (above), to learn about the first non-Swede in a Team Tidö car.

David is a passionate racer who founded Team Tidö in 2008 to race in Formula Renault Scandinavia and the Swedish Touring Car Championship. The team later moved into historic motorsport, running several historic 911s in the Copenhagen Historic Grand Prix, on the Midnight Sun Rally and on the Safari.

Blomqvist won the Safari Classic Rally in Race4Health colours back in 2015, and Björn Waldegård also drove for the team on several occasions, including on the 2013 Safari Rally. Björn rolled his car that year, but it was later reshelled at Tuthills. Now part of Team Tidö’s car and motorcycle collection, the crumpled shell hangs at Tidö Slott: David’s family castle.

Viking Siege Mentality

I’ve done a fair few miles on road trips in Sweden. My uncle (another writer) read English at Trinity College, where he met a Swedish girl. She took him home to Stockholm, they got married and had kids. My dad never needed much excuse for a road trip, so visiting his Swedish relations in Stockholm was perfect. That’s how we spent one excellent summer touring through Finland and Sweden, to the Arctic Circle and back.

One thing you soon learn when driving through Sweden is that the country is not short of castles. This came from bitter experience: the Vikings loved a siege and even held Paris under siege for a year. You were nowhere in Sweden if you weren’t within reach of a fortress, so there are hundreds of castles, chateaux and palaces across the country. Known collectively as Slott (castle), many are still private residences. Tidö Slott falls into this group.

Photo by Anders P [CC BY 2.0 (]

Swedish Castles: Tidö Slott

Tidö Slott is one of Sweden’s best-preserved castles from its age of high empire, spanning 1610 to 1720. Axel Oxenstierna – King Gustaf II Adolf’s Lord High Chancellor and widely regarded as one of the most influential figures in Swedish history – built the castle between 1625 and 1641, with the help of architects, Simon de la Vallée and Nicodemus Tessin.

Paris-born de la Vallée (whose father was architect to Louis XIII) was brought to Sweden by the head of the army and appointed Royal Architect. Tidö Slott was one of his first works in Sweden, and Stockholm palaces followed. Tessin the Elder was another regal favourite, whose most famous work is the Drottningholm Palace: still home to the Swedish royal family.

Tidö Slott was built in a Dutch Renaissance style. A huge four-wing complex set around a central courtyard, the castle was owned by Oxenstierna’s descendants for two hundred years, until they sold it in 1840. The next fifty years were a time of decline, until Carl-David von Schinkel acquired the castle in 1890. Four generations of the von Schinkel family have since grown up in Tidö Slott. The castle was private until 1971, when it was opened to the public. Today, it serves as a home, conference centre and meeting place.

Inheriting a castle – becoming its custodian for a time – must be an incredible privilege, but it also brings with it a potentially crushing responsibility. My own house was built in the late 1800s and would fit into Tido Slott many times over. I know how much work my little house takes to maintain, so to manage the burden of an inherited estate, and then extend one’s responsibility to changing the lives of the less fortunate in distant countries is incredibly worthy. If one accepts some of the data available, that sort of extension is a rare thing in Sweden.

Sweden in the Global Giving Index

A 2010 study by the Charities Aid Foundation covered almost 200,000 people in 153 countries. The survey included questions on personal charitable donations, volunteering and helping strangers: how much of each were people doing? The answers were averaged and each country was given a score, ranking the nation’s ‘charitability’ in the World Giving Index.

Australia topped the list, with 70% of Australians giving to charity, 38% volunteering for an organisation in the previous month and 64% helping a stranger in the same timeframe. New Zealand (68/41/63) and Ireland (72/35/60) followed Australia. Sweden (52/12/47) was in the low 40s, placing it behind Chile, Somalia and Afghanistan in the list of giving nations. Several European countries ranked lower, but, across Scandinavia, Sweden was lowest.

I found this data at odds with my perceptions of Sweden and my experience of Swedish philanthropy. To me, the nation represents the pinnacle of social conscience. Sweden ranks first in the world for press freedom, fourth for democracy and lack of corruption and tenth for global peace and global competitiveness. Sweden also ranks twelfth in the world for Human Development: a combined index of life expectancy, education and per capita income.

The importance of a good education is ingrained in Swedish consciousness and the power of education to drive national progress underpins Team Tidö’s charitable programme.

“If you can’t see, you can’t go to school”

“If you can’t see, you can’t read. If you can’t read, then you can’t go to school,” says David, who was inspired to develop a charitable arm to Team Tidö Race4Health through conversations with the late Björn Waldegård. Hailed as a sporting legend in Africa, the serial Safari winner had limitless compassion. Long term co-driver, Hans Thorzelius, remembers how Björn would save clothes and shoes from his kids and hand them out in Africa: he wanted people to see that he knew, and that he cared.

The most used greeting amongst Zulus is sawubona, meaning “I see you, you are important to me and I value you.” It is a deep and spiritual blessing, bestowed upon people one cares about. It voices respect for each other as individuals, with all our unique scars and flaws. Race4Health embraces this spirit with its eyewear redistribution programme.

Overseen by opticians from Balsta Optik, who travel with the rally as part of the team, the eyewear distribution scheme collects thousands of pairs of donated spectacles in Sweden and redistributes them to people in remote communities along the rally route. Team Tidö Race4Health established this project in 2013 and has since restored clear vision to hundreds of people with impaired sight in Kenya and Tanzania.

While I was on the phone to David yesterday, he sent me a link to a story in the Economist, discussing a recent World Health Organisation report estimating that, globally, at least 2.2 billion people have impaired vision. Some one billion people have an eyesight problem that is either preventable (e.g transmitted due to infection) or that could be addressed with spectacles. While David does not imagine that the programme will ever distribute a billion pairs of spectacles, he has seen with his own eyes that every person helped lifts the rest of society.

Anders and Ann-Marie Århlin are the opticians who travel with Tidö in Africa. Their first trip to the rally was in 2015, and they’ve been coming back ever since. “We don’t have a special group who we target,” says Ann-Marie. “We try to distribute to as many people as possible in the villages we visit. It is often quite chaotic as they don’t really have the same understanding of queuing that we do, but it usually goes well.

“What is most satisfying about our work with Race4Health is seeing how the help gets directly to those who need it. I have been to many African countries before and seen how aid organisations can suffer with problems due to bureaucracy or other hindrances. Direct help in situ is the best option: we immediately see the difference it makes to the people.”

Race4Change: Race4Health

Team Tidö Race4Health’s projects in Africa follow in the tyre tracks of Race4Change: an organisation led by the Canadian-American, Dr Steven Funk, who I worked with on a Safari Rally campaign in 2011. Funk’s work put microfinance at its centre, offering a hand up to budding entrepreneurs and giving them “skin in the game”. As an economic migrant once upon a time, Funk’s pitch had profound resonation with me. Race4Health takes a different approach, but the end result may be even more powerful.

Having spoken to Anders and Ann-Marie and seen the difference their work makes in person, I find the whole story incredibly powerful. Team Tidö Race4Health returns to Safari next month and, while all eyes may be focused on Blomqvist out front, the real value of Race4Health’s African vision will be happening way off the leader board: out in the bush, right where it’s needed.

Ferdinand blogs my freelance adventure with Porsche at the centre. To support my blog or to engage with me in other ways, you can:

Paris-Dakar Porsche 959 for sale

Paris-Dakar Porsche 959 for sale

RM Sotheby’s has announced that the only works Paris-Dakar Porsche 959 rally car in private hands will be offered for sale in its Porsche 70th Anniversary Sale at the Porsche Experience Centre Atlanta on October 27th. Driven by René Metge in the 1985 Paris-Dakar Rally, the car failed to finish, but that’s another story.

I have spent a little bit of time with this car over the years, as it was previously maintained by Tuthill Porsche and supported by the team on appearances including the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

I first met the 959 on an early visit to the Wardington workshops in 2004. My 911 SC Cabriolet had been in with Francis for a service and I had a nose around the barns when I came back to collect it that evening with two year-old (now 16 year-old) Ciara in tow. As a Porsche rally freak, it blew my mind to see the Dakar 959 sitting in a corner under the cover. How crazy to think my humble SC was being worked on under the same roof: that was a pretty cool thing.

Paris-Dakar Porsche 959 up close

The Paris-Dakar Porsche 959 was a constant presence through my early years of working with Tuthills. I never used it in a magazine feature, but Chris Harris drove this car back-to-back with a roadgoing 959 for GT Porsche magazine in September 2006. The original Paris-Dakar car featured a lightweight 3.2-litre engine with a close ratio gearbox versus the road car’s 2.85-litre twin-turbo flat six, but the 959 as tested by Harris was running a magnesium-cased 3.5-litre engine producing 350bhp, to safeguard the 959’s original engine. Despite this, Chris was effusive in his praise for the 959 Dakar’s high drama.

“The car is brutally noisy. In fact, it sounds so intense that the sensation of speed is heightened because you can’t believe that such a racket could ever be produced unless the sound barrier was imminent. It chomps through the close ratios faster than I dare use the uprated 915 gearbox and like any rally car on the road, it feels completely detached because so much of its suspension performance isn’t being used.

“It rides quite beautifully – better than the road car – steers like you’d expect given that it isn’t hampered by hydraulic assistance and the brake pedal takes a decent prod to have any effect. Driving through rural Oxfordshire, its remarkable to think that this car was capable of 140mph over boulder-strewn African tracks.”

No doubt this is a wonderful 911: a real piece of history that would certainly spice up any serious air-cooled Porsche collection. I’m intrigued to see where the bidding ends up and who it passes to.

Main pic © Robin Adams courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

Porsche Driver lost on Morocco Historic Rally

Porsche Driver lost on Morocco Historic Rally

The 2017 Morocco Historic Rally has been a true rallying roller coaster so far, with an epic battle for the lead overshadowed by the sad loss of a great competitor in his Porsche 911.

RIP Gérard Brianti

Gérard Brianti was a passionate rallyiste and described by many as one of life’s gentlemen. Well known in historic rallying circles, Gérard’s greatest success was victory at the Monte Carlo Historic rally in 2013, driving his Group 4 Alpine A110. A popular member of the Automobile Club of Monaco, he also held the vice-presidency of ASM, the football club of the Principality. Gérard was 64 years old and his premature departure leaves many good memories with the rallying community. We extend sincere condolences to Gérard’s family and friends. Photo courtesy of Jérôme Didier.

The loss of Gérard and concern for the injuries suffered by his co-driver, Freddy Delorme, led to the Bernard Munster Automotive team’s retirement from the rally, as a mark of respect for their team mates. The retirees included Gregoire de Mevius and co-drive Alain Guehennec, who had been enjoying a close battle in their Porsche 911 RS against Philippe Gache and Stéphane Prevot, in the Mazda RX7. When Gregoire’s car lost a wheel on one stage, Gache and Prevot seized their chance.

Morocco Historic Rally standings

At the end of SS23 and heading into the last day, Gache continues to lead, more than three minutes up on the Sunbeam Lotus of Barrile/Chiappe. Gache is one of the favourites on this year’s East African Safari Classic Rally in Kenya and Tanzania – which I should be travelling out for again – and the third-placed car is another confirmed Safari Classic Rally crew: Jorge Perez-Companc and Jose Volta in the Ford Escort RS 1800, prepared by Phil Mills at Viking Motorsport.

In fourth place, just two minutes behind Jorge, is the hard-charging Porsche 911 RS of Belgium’s Joost van Cauwenberge and Steven Vyncke. Joost’s car hails from the Tuthill Porsche stable and my good friend Francis is out with Joost in support. The 911 took overall victory on last year’s Rally of the Incas and is certainly challenging for a podium finish.

Accompanying the sadness of losing a competitor on an event, there is often a sense that the competitors fight on in memory of their comrade. No doubt all those who live and breathe rallying are fiercely determined to give passionate rally competitors a memorable send-off. With crews now doubly motivated and racing in honour of Gérard, it will be thrilling to follow the rally’s last day.

It’s great to see a mix of machinery at the front of the field and so many other interesting cars down the order, including the Citroen SM Bandama which is confirmed to rally in Kenya this year and a wonderful Lancia Stratos which may also be seen on the Safari Classic: one of the last proper marathon-stage historic events remaining.

RIP Steve Troman

I must also pay tribute to another popular Porsche rallyist and 911 collector, as Steve Troman sadly left us recently. Always ready to talk Porsche at the drop of a hat, Steve had a beautiful collection of cars and was a great help to me personally at one stage, when he shipped my 912E home from the west coast with some of his own cars a few years ago.

When I say Steve’s collection included some of the very best 911s ever made, I mean exactly that, without exaggeration. He was a connoisseur of modified 911s and had exceptional taste in the machines. He will be deeply missed by a great many people. RIP Steve.

Steve’s brothers have set up a Just Giving page here. Please take a look, as it is supporting a very important charity. Main photo is of Steve in action on Safari Classic 2013 – credit McKlein.

Porsche 911 Almeras Tribute in Ice Driving

Porsche 911 Almeras Tribute in Ice Driving

My friend Simon Kelly has just had his Porsche 911 SC repainted by Tuthills in a cool Alméras Frères tribute livery. I managed to get a few pics of the finished item before jumping on the plane to Gran Canaria.

Almeras won the 1978 Monte Carlo Rally with an SC in the famous Blue and Gold ‘Gitanes’ cigarettes livery: probably the high point of the SC’s motorsport career. Tobacco advertising is a sensitive topic in Europe nowadays and many owners modify tribute livery branding slightly, to ensure their cars do not fall foul of any rules. Simon also tweaked the design of his decals a bit, to be sure the livery would not upset the wrong people.

“I wasn’t quite sure what I would do regarding the tobacco thing and, in the end, I had a last-minute wobble. I did some reading about it and it’s a grey area with governing bodies, regulators and the media all having a different take on what’s acceptable. I didn’t want the tobacco ban causing problems for the car, so for a quite life I used the French spelling of ‘gypsy’ instead of the Catalan.

“The decals were made by our mutual friend, Rick Cannell at Highgate House, and are a lovely job. Rick made them the same way as the originals would have been done, using layered vinyl and not the printed vinyl which is more common nowadays. Your photos remind me that I need to send Tuthills some new number plates I had made in the proper style!”

Regular readers may recognise Simon’s car as one I did a feature on back in the day, when it was painted grey and red. Built by Tuthills using one of EB Motorsport’s first Group 4 Almeras-style arch kits, Simon bought the car in 2011, selling an RSR replica and 968 Sport to buy this one instead.

The car has been a regular at the Below Zero Ice Driving camp in Sweden every winter and is heading back again for 2017, hence the font and rear guards and towing eyes, to drag it off the snow banks. I think this is going to look great on a white background – here’s to taking many more pics!