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British team Tuthill Porsche has ended this year’s East African Safari Classic with a double podium in what turned out to be a bitter sweet end for the team who were within touching distance of delivering Porsche its second consecutive Safari victory.

Ranked as one of the toughest events in international motorsport, the 2013 Safari Classic went down to the wire as Stig Blomqvist lost out on a nail-biting final stage showdown with local driver, Ian Duncan.

Run over sections of punishing rock and mud-coated tracks, the 60 crews that started this year’s Safari negotiated countless river crossings and wild animals as they completed a nine-day, 3800 kilometre loop through Kenya and Tanzania. It would seem remarkable, therefore, that the top two front-runners – Blomqvist and Duncan - were separated by a handful of seconds by day nine.

Team Tidö’s Blomqvist – who was piloting a blue Race4Health Tuthill Porsche 911 - was nine seconds behind Duncan going into today but after two fastest stage times, the Swede reclaimed the rally lead by 38 seconds before the day’s closing section. In a cruel twist of fate, however, Blomqvist suffered a puncture and Duncan snatched the rally victory by just over three minutes.

“I don’t have much to say, I am very disappointed,” admitted Safari runner-up Stig Blomqvist at the finish line. “I’ve had no real problems for eight days and then 20 kilometres before the end of the rally, we hit a rocky section flat out. I knew straight away we had a puncture. We tried to change it as quick as we could but I knew it was too late by the time we got back in the car. I have always had bad luck on the Safari, I said this at the start but to lose the rally with a puncture on the final 20 km is hard. Really hard…”

Delivering Tuthill its second podium result in Africa was Belgian pairing Gerard Marcy and Stephane Prevot. Marcy had been the model of consistency through the rally having occupied third position since day four. “I feel really good. We have been cruising the last few days as Stig and Ian were too fast to catch. So we were driving carefully to get the car back in one piece - I have to say I am very pleased to arrive back in Mombasa.”

Kenyans David and Alex Horsey – who spent the event sharing driving and co-driving duties in their Tuhtill 911 – brought their Tuthill 911 home in sixth place. “We’ve had a fantastic time,” said Horsey Snr. “I’m not sure if I could go through this again though! It is absolutely exhausting - both mentally and physically but Alex and I are a good team and our tactic to swap driving definitely worked as it helped keep us fresh before the stages. The Tuthill 911 is a great machine, it’s been a lot of fun to drive.”

Rounding off the top 10 in another Tuthill car was Safari debutant Patrick Van Heurck. Van Heurck’s co-driver commented: “That was tough – a lot harder than we expected but we’ve really enjoyed today even though it’s been really hot in the car at times. We were taking each day step by step and our strategy has paid off because we are in the top 10 and it feels very, very good!”

Tuthill Porsche team manager Richard Tuthill concluded: “Of course we are very disappointed – to lose a rally on the final stage is heart-breaking for the whole team. We had given it everything but I would never have envisaged that a nine-day rally covering such huge distances could be decided on the final stage. The three minutes after Duncan crossed that finish line felt like an eternity as we waited for Stig and then we got news he had a puncture and the seconds kept ticking by until we knew we’d lost it.

However, it’s been a terrific event for Tuthill despite what happened today: we leave Africa with two podium spots, nine of our cars are in the top 20 and 15 of our cars that started the rally have made it back to Mombasa. So, I’d like to take a moment to thank the team - everyone from mechanics to the drivers – who have all contributed to making this year’s Safari Classic an event we will never forget.”

Provisional East African Safari Classic leaderboard (Friday 29 November)

1. Ian Duncan/Amaar Slatch: Ford Capri 16hr54m46s
2. Stig Blomqvist/Staffan Parmander: Tuthill Porsche 911 16hr58m00s
3. Gerard Marcy/Stephane Prevot: Tuthill Porsche 911 17hr39m45s
4. Steve Perez/John Millington: Datsun 260Z 17hr50m49s
5. Onkar Rai/Baldev Chager: Porsche 911 17hr54m16s
6. David Horsey/Alex Horsey: Tuthill Porsche 911 18hr04m16s
7. John Lloyd/Adrian Cavenagh: Ford Escort RS1800 18hr16m18s
8. Gregoire De Mevius/Alain Guehennec: Porsche 911 18hr32m54s
9. Manvir Baryan/Jaswinder Chanda: Porsche 911 18hr51m44s
10. Patrick Van Heurck/Alain Lopes: Tuthill Porsche 911 18hr57m59s

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