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For some entrants, the adventure that is all part of the Kenya Airways Safari Classic has started already. Richard Martin-Hurst has done both previous Safari Classics, the first in a Rover P5 V8 and the second in another V8 engined car, a Ford Capri Perana, so the Perana is being readied for its second attempt at the Safari.

In fact, until a short time ago, the Perana was ready to go off to Africa since Richard’s co-driver and preparation expert, Tony Devantier, was leaving England to go to live in Australia and had done everything necessary on the car before he left. Then the night before he was due to fly off, a certain lady driver lost control of her vehicle outside Richard’s house and managed to regain control by driving her car into the side of the Perana.

Richard commented that he felt it was particularly galling that “having done two London to Sydney rallies, a Safari Rally, the Midnight Sun to Red Sea, plus Evo Africa and Evo Kalahari in this car without bending it, this has to happen while it was parked outside my house in England.”

His problem is exacerbated by a combination of things. Tony has left for Australia and new Perana guards are simply not available so the old ones will have to be re-modelled. Richard’s adventure has thus indeed started early. He is no stranger to long-distance rallying as the list of events the Capri Perana has already tackled indicates.

His career started with British rallies back in the early 1960s but already there could be seen a hankering for longer events emerging when he entered the infamous Liège-Sofia-Liège in a diesel Land Rover. He also added events like the Tulip Rally, Coupe des Alpes, Acropolis, Circuit of Ireland and RAC Rally to his CV – though these were undertaken in cars like a Mini Cooper S or Ford Escort rather than the Land Rover – before taking a twenty-year sabbatical from rally driving.

When he returned in 1991, it was to do classic events in familiar Minis and Escorts, but for the 1993 London to Sydney he drove a Rover 3.5 litre P5, taking with him Bill Meade, the engineer who, until he retired, had been involved with Ford’s competition and high performance vehicle activities. This same Rover was resuscitated for Tony Devantier and Richard to do the 2003 Safari Classic.

The Perana that they will drive is an example of a Ford Capri originally converted by Basil Green Racing in South Africa in the early part of 1970. As imported from the UK into South Africa, these Peranas were originally fitted with a 3.0 litre V6 engine which was replaced by Green with a 5.0 litre American Ford Windsor engine. He also fitted a Ford Toploader four speed gearbox and a Borg-Warner rear axle to handle the power.

Examples of the Perana proved very competitive in South African saloon car racing and one won the 1970 South African championship – so successful that the Perana was promptly banned from racing for the next season!

This particular Perana found its way to Australia where it and its sister car were prepared to compete in the 2000 London to Sydney. Its sister car, crewed by Stig Blomqvist and Ben Rainsford, won the event outright, coming home ahead of Michele Mouton and Francis Tuthill in a Porsche 911. Richard and Tony finished fifteenth, were third in class and won the team prize with Blomqvist.

Photo: Jeff Whitten, taken at 2000 London-Sydney Marathon, Buckingbong Forest, NSW

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