Safari Rally victory to Bjorn Waldegard
- 4th December 2007, 11:01am
Victory went to Bjorn and Mathias Waldegård in a Ford Escort RS1600, who had led on Day One, momentarily relinquished their lead to Gerard Marcy and Alain Lopes in a Porsche 911 on Day Two, but then led all the way to the finish from the end of Day Three. For the ex-World Champion, already a four-time winner of the original Safari Rally, this was quite an emotional occasion since it is 30 years since he first won the legendary event.
The dramas centred on Marcy who struck problems in the second section, the infamous Usambara Mountains, when he hit a rocky bank and broke his front suspension. He tried to drive out of the stage but failed. Consequently, he had to wait for the other competitors to finish the section and for his service crew to drive 22 kilometres in to mend the Porsche.
Marcy set fastest times on both the first and third section of the final day and received an enormous cheer when he drove over the finish ramp, arriving after nearly all the other cars. Marcy fell back from second to fourth overall, to the benefit of two other Porsche drivers, Frederic Dor and Geoff Fielding, who occupied second and third places behind Waldegård.
Yet another Porsche 911, that of Paul-Eric Jarry, was fifth, just 10 minutes ahead of Waldegård's team mate and fellow ex-World Champion, Stig Blomqvist, who took sixth place after what had been, for him, a troubled event. Behind Blomqvist were the two South African Datsun 180Bs of Roddy Sachs and Wayne Kieswetter, whose steady performances were rewarded with seventh and eighth places respectively.
The best local driver was John Rose in the Datsun 240Z, built for his 60th birthday that he had celebrated at the beginning of November. Completing the top ten finishers was Australian, Graham Alexander with his Datsun 260Z which, in his opinion, was not destined to go much further.
In all, 42 cars from the 58 starters were classified as finishers and went over the ramp in front of the Sarova Whitesands Hotel north of Nairobi on Monday afternoon.
Final top ten positions
1 Bjorn Waldegard/Mathias Waldegard Ford Escort Mk1 15h34m08s
2 Frederic Dor/Didier Breton Porsche 911 16h04m45s
3 Geoff Fielding/Preston Ayres Porsche 911 17h05m02s
4 Gerard Marcy/Alain Lopes Porsche 911 17h14m18s
5 Paul-Eric Jarry/Craig Redelinghuys Porsche 911 17h29m11s
6 Stig Blomqvist/Ana Goni Ford Escort Mk1 17h39m47s
7 Roddy Sachs/Peter Young Datsun 180B 18h13m20s
8 Wayne Kieswetter/Rob Hellier Datsun 180B 18h36m22s
9 John Rose/Michael Borrisow Datsun 240Z 19h02m20s
10 Graham Alexander/Ross Runnalls Datsun 260Z 19h06m05s
Car No. 1 Bjorn Waldegard
"It was quite a long day since the driver was not allowed to make a mistake and the co-driver was not allowed to make a mistake. The first section today was quite tricky and I would have liked to have attacked in the Usambaras but there was a bit too much traffic these days. I was a bit nervous all day but when I pulled up at Whitesands I felt fantastic. It's been thirty years since I won my first Safari. The car's been perfect all day."
From co-driver Mathias Waldegard: "I feel great to make it to the end and to win. We took it quite carefully as we knew we had to finish."
Car No. 2 Gerard Marcy
"Our problem today came out of the blue on an uphill left-hander at not much more than 50 or 60 kph. The car slid a little and I corrected and suddenly it turned sharp right and hit the rock. We tried to drive out of the section but after about 8km we realised that we were doing too much damage. The service crew came in when they could and found that we had broken the outer tract control arm joint so that the strut was completely free. They fixed it and we continued and did the last section where we did fastest time, as we had done on the first section. I'm very happy to have finished. This Porsche is fantastic and I've really enjoyed driving it on these roads."
Car No. 3 Stig Blomqvist
"That was a long hot boring day but we did it mainly without problems. It's a shame about our problems that came earlier as it meant that we were never really able to challenge for the lead but I've enjoyed myself and enjoyed the driving."
From co-driver Ana Goni: "Today was tough. The steering became loose half way through the Usambaras. I'm relieved to have finished. Compared to the other Safari Classics the event has been just as good as always."
Car No. 4 Frederic Dor
"It's not been a perfect day because we first had a front damper seize and then actually broke a rear one in the Usambaras. We were starting to run out of these special XTC dampers from New Zealand and therefore when we changed three before the last section, they were all pretty well used. The car is very soft now, nice to drive in traffic but not so good on the stages. When you drive fast on these roads the suspension needs to be stiff so that when you hurt your back you know you're going too fast."
Car No. 7 Keith & Mary-Ann Callinan (Escort, Australia)
"I'm a very happy competitor to finish. We lost the clutch right at the beginning of the second section which made it pretty difficult, but the section would have been just sensational if we'd had a clutch. We didn't have time to fix it so we had to do the third section with no clutch as well and get back to Mombasa. It's a fantastic feeling to finish. The East African Safari Rally is a true marathon."
Car No. 10 Geoff Fielding
"We took it good and steady. We bust a rear damper in the second section quite near the beginning and we had to nurse it through. I'd hoped to be in the top ten but to be on the podium is beyond words. It's absolutely fantastic, brilliant. The car is in perfect condition and I am just overwhelmed. What an event."
Car No. 11 Graham Alexander
"The car's been losing water all the time. We've had to top it up before a section and then sit on the start line with all the fans going to try and keep the temperature down. We've only used fourth and fifth gear in most of the sections. Frankly, I don't think the old girl would have done another day, but we're naturally delighted to be here and to have finished in the top ten."
Car No. 34 Ian & Val Swan (Volvo, Australia)
"Well, the car held together, although there must be a bush gone on the front of the axle because you can feel it moving in the body when you accelerate. Today we just kept our fingers crossed and gritted our teeth all the way. To be honest I drove like I was a 110 . We started today with the objective of finishing and we did. It was a lot tougher than I expected and we've never been so glad to finish an event."
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