Today’s action on the East African Safari Classic Rally was cut short, when the second stage of the day was cancelled due to road conditions: rain had made long sections of the stage impassable for 2wd cars. The competitors were forced to content themselves with running the day’s first stage of 81 kilometres and the final 26-kilometre stage instead.
Stage 1 was rough and Ryan Champion and Richard Jackson were first on the road. The duo decided to take it steady and protect the car as, at the start of today, there were still almost 1,000 kilometres left to cover over the final three days.
“Today was a day not without its troubles,” said Ryan. “First stage this morning was very, very rough. We backed off in there – we want to try and preserve the car. We did drop a bit of time in there, but we managed to take a little bit back on the last of the day, in which we were fastest. The middle one was cancelled because of road conditions, so I think our lead stands at two minutes tonight, with two days left.
“Tomorrow’s going to be a long, tough day. Today we saw some stages that were very, very rough, so if it’s anything like that tomorrow, it will be a hard day on the cars. At the minute, the car’s in good shape and we’re looking forward to the last couple of days.”
“Our main plan is to get to the end and it would obviously be nice to win,” said Richard Jackson. “I think in the history of this event, there have been Kenyans winning apart from when we had the Swedish former champions winning. So if we are going to have a British win and, in particular somebody from Yorkshire, we would be delighted. But we are not counting our chickens just yet.”
“Richard and Ryan are doing exceptionally well,” said Baldev Chager in the second-placed Porsche, who took almost a minute out of the leader on the first stage today. “Ryan had the disadvantage of being first on the road today. We picked a little time on him in the first stage, second stage got cancelled, and third stage Ryan beat us by about fifteen seconds so it’s a very tight race. Two days to go and we will keep the pace and keep the pressure.”
The Welcome to Yorkshire Porsche finished the day as third quickest car behind Stig. Stig and Mattias set a cracking pace on the day’s first stage to be second through there and fourth on the final stage. They have now moved up to sixth overall and are eight minutes behind Raaji Bharij in P5. P4 is Geoff Bell, some twenty minutes up the road and highly unlikely to slow down, but Stig has six stages left to narrow the gap. He has no plans to do anything other than drive flat out until Friday, so we’ve double-checked his throttle for tomorrow.
Roger Samuelsson and Robin Friberg are running inside the top ten in ninth overall: a great result for Roger after a torrid event in 2015. “We are doing the exact opposite of everybody else and just driving in a controlled way to ensure we make the finish line. Stage one today was a car breaker, then two was cancelled and we really enjoyed the third stage.”
Jayant Shah and Ravi Chana are still going strong, setting the twelfth quickest time on the long stage today and inside the top twenty on the final stage. Getting to the end is what it’s all about at this point of the rally: no one wants to retire on day nine, unless they have been challenging hard for the lead, that is. Speed versus survival is the knife-edge that the front-runners balance on: it is just so exhilarating!
Photo by McKlein