There’s just one more day to go to the start of the 2018 Top Fry Rally. This exciting event that debuted in 2016 is even more epic second time around, with the cars covering 1,500 kilometres in total including 1,000 kms of competitive stages over five days of rallying through northern Kenya.
We’ve sent mechanics out to support the local crews for four cars on this event: the Porsche 911s of Alastair Cavenagh and Gavin Laurence, Jayant Shah and Ravi Chana, Aslam and Arshad Khan and Rob Linck and Imran Khan. Further down the seeded start list is the familiar name of Francis Tuthill. The legend has shipped an updated version of his Salzburg Beetle out to Kenya and is looking forward to a second crack at an event that he revelled in first time around.
“This will be a real challenge for all of the competitors,” says Francis. “The total distance of fifteen hundred kilometres is a long way to go. Every day will cover almost 300 kilometres including two long stages, so the rally will just keep coming at the crews.
“The very first stage is the longest of the rally at almost 150 kilometres. Some cars might struggle with fuel range: it is marginal. Last time out, they stopped the rally in the middle of the stage for fuel and tyres: fifteen minutes and then we were off again. Some even ran out of tyres on that one stage alone, so it will be a real challenge.
“We’ve made a few changes since the Beetle’s last outing (service in 2016, above). The car is now running on 911 wheels as the terrain was just too rough for steel wheels. We’ve increased power from the 1600cc engine to 90 horsepower with twin carburettors, improved the oil cooling system and upgraded the gearbox mounts so the car doesn’t jump out of gear over the roughest terrain – I had to drive much of the last rally one-handed.
“We could have thrown a full Salzburg-spec engine at this and run 120 horsepower with all the toys, but the car is built to be affordable, relative to the other alternatives. The power increase with the torquiest cam available gives us another 1,000 revs and puts us into a better place regards gearing for the longer uphill sections. It should be more flexible, which will make a big difference.
“The team is basically the same as last time. Raju Chaggar is my co-driver and Peter and Zane Young will be looking after service. The car shipped into Mombasa and was taken up to Nairobi for the start. We have two days pre-event testing to get familiar with the changes, and then we hope to have a lot of fun with the evolution Beetle.”
Follow our social media channels for regular updates on progress over the weekend. Best of luck to everyone rallying this weekend!