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British team Tuthill Porsche has completed the opening day of this year’s East African Safari Classic with three of its Porsche 911s placed in the top four. Former world rally champion Stig Blomqvist leads the way out of the 17 Tuthill Porsce crews competing in Africa, with fellow Swede Björn Waldegård third in a second Tuthill-prepared 911. Safari stalwart Gerard Marcy holds fourth in his number 6 Tuthill 911.

Today’s action consisted of three stages set west of Mombasa. After crossing the start ramp at the Savora Whitesands rally headquarters this morning, the teams started with the 85.18 kilometre Majengo 1 stage which was a mix of smooth flowing, long river causeways and twisty roads. Englishman Richard Jackson and Germany's Franz Wunderlich both lost time after inccuring rear punctures in their Tuthill 911s following a rock-strewn section half-way through the test. Blomqvist clocked the fastest time, with Safari debutant Richard Göransson going second quickest.

“It’s been a good set of stages for and we’ve had no problems today,” said 67-year-old Blomqvist who has had limited seat-time behind the wheel of a Tuthill 911 until now. “We’ve found a good rhythm, and the car set-up is good but it is very hot in the car… But this is the Safari, the heat will not be our only problem. This is a very long rally and anything can happen - I’ve not had much luck in Africa over the years.”

In typical Safari style, Waldegård was slowed by animals that were littered by the side of the road. “They weren’t wild animals, so nothing too exciting – just lots of goats and cows but that’s one of the disadvantages of driving first on the roads, there’s a lot of traffic,” said Waldegård who won the last Safari Classic in 2011 with Tuthill. Tuthill father and son duo David and Alex Horsey had a close call with two baboons while driving their Tuthill 911 at full speed while Steve Jackson’s co-driver Andrew Doig joked that he saw plenty of elephant droppings, dik-diks and goats.

Blomqvist continued his charge and set the second fastest time on the day’s second stage, with Waldegård clocking the fourth fastest time and experienced Tuthill driver Marcy securing the sixth fastest time. Touring car champion Göransson hit trouble when he went off the road after a tight right-hand bend. The Swede and his Team Tidö co-driver Emil Axelsson spent 25 minutes digging their 911 out of the African soil before nursing their Tuthill car back to service.

The day’s closing stage was set at the base of Taita Hills and included competitive road sections that had been used on the Safari for over 50 years. It was relatively trouble-free for the Tuthill crews as Blomqvist and Waldegård consolidated their first and third placings respectively. Englishman Steve Troman was not so lucky, however, when he and co-driver Andrew Doig went sideways over a jump 700 metres from the end of the stage and rolled their Tuthill 911.

Doig takes up the story: “I was 100 metres early on a pacenote call and Steve slammed on the brakes which meant that we ended up going sideways over a jump and rolled one and a half times. There were lots of spectators nearby so they helped to get us back on the road and we lost around four minutes. If this had been a sprint rally we would have got going a lot quicker but this is a long rally so we pulled the windscreen out and drove to the end of the stage with one steering arm. Thankfully the roll cage is fine and now the team have two hours in service to turn a bent 911 into a straight one.”

Provisional results at end of day one (Thurday 21 November):

1. Stig Blomqvist/Staffan Parmander: Tuthill Porsche 911 2hr09m45s
2. Ian Duncan/Amaar Slatch: Ford Capri 2hr10m48s
3. Björn Waldegård/Mathias Waldegård: Tuthill Porsche 911 2hr13m26s
4. Gerard Marcy/Stephane Prevot: Tuthill Porsche 911 2hr13m27s
5. Alastair Cavenagh/Carl Tundo: Ford Escort Mk2 2hr14m23s
6. Gregoire De Mevius/Alain Guehennec: Porsche 911 2hr14m36s
7. Geoff Bell/Tim Challen: Datsun 260Z 2hr15m45s
8. Bernard Munster/Johan Gitsels: Porsche 911 2hr16m53s
9. Andrew Siddall/Carl Williamson: Datsun 260Z 2hr17m23s
10. Steve Perez/John Millington: Datsun 260Z 2hr17m25s
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