Richard Jackson and Ryan Champion leading Safari Classic

Today was day six of the 2017 East African Safari Classic Rally and a tough one for all the competitors. Following yesterday’s rest day, the crews had a 6am start to drive from the south coast of Kenya back into Tanzania, for the 155-kilometre stage at Horo Horo, flanked by two shorter stages either side.

As the sun rose on day six and the rally’s second half, there were still almost 1,500 kilometres remaining. With the end now in sight, tension amongst the leaders was increasing: no holds would be barred in the final four days. Any small slip could lead to disaster, and that was how it went for the leaders.

Starting the day second overall behind Kenyan rally veteran, Baldev Chager in a rival 911, Richard Jackson and co-driver Ryan Champion were continuing their Safari seat swap in the number nine Porsche, with Richard calling the notes for Ryan in the driver’s seat. Coming home quickest overall on day four of the rally was a sign of things to come: the pair would go on to repeat the feat on day six.

“It was a big mileage day today, with over two hundred stage kilometres,” said Ryan. “We started off with a good run through the 30-kilometre stage this morning. We were fastest in there: a good clean run with no dramas. We then went into a 160-kilometre stage – 100 miles – in Tanzania. It had everything in there: very fast high speed sections, twisty stuff, very rough rocky sections. We had a reasonable run until about two-thirds of the way through and then we broke a rear shock absorber, so we had to cruise through the last forty kilometres of that stage, dropping us a minute.

“The last stage was a shorter one – 25 kilometres. Pretty much a clean run for us. There was one junction that’s caused a bit of controversy. It was clear in the road book, but it came up very quickly. We overshot it: we went a hundred metres wrong turned around and came back, but others have gone three or four kilometres wrong. A few people are whinging about it. At the end of the day, the road book was right, so we’ll see what they do with the times on that one.

“The car’s in good shape: in service now with the rest of the team. The cars are all good, but we’ve still got three days left: there is a long, long rally to go.”

The end-of-day times showed a change in the lead, with Ryan and Richard now over two minutes in front. Chager and co-driver Soni have slipped to second, with Kenya’s Carl Tundo and co-driver Tim Jessop gaining on the leader in third overall. Everyone loves a close Safari battle to the finish and we are no exception: it will be fascinating to see how this cat and mouse game evolves over the final three days.

The rest of our cars had a good day overall. Team Tidö Race4Health drivers, Roger Samuelsson and Robin Friberg, were third fastest on today’s final stage and will start ninth on the road tomorrow, having been unfairly bumped down this morning’s start order. Stig and Mattias set the fourth fastest cumulative time today, but remain a long way off the lead.

It is tempting to think that the eventual winner will be somewhere amongst the top three on day seven, but nothing is guaranteed here. One small slip or a tiny misjudgement and it can all be over in a flash: we have been there and done that more than once in the past.

Pic by Geoff Mayes/Mayes Media