Why a Safari?Read Now
Because it looks cool and fun to drive. And the race has an interesting history.
911 safari cars have become somewhat trendy in the last few years. Google it and you'll see lot's of interpretations of what a Safari 911 should look like. I've chosen something a little more defined - a tribute to the cars run in the 1978 East Africa Safari Rally.
The rally, run from March 23-27, 1978, covered over 3,000 miles of grueling African terrain. Early in the rally season, Mitsubishi had performed poorly. Ford, having done well in Monaco, and Fiat/Lancia, having done well in Monaco and Sweden, had suggested they would to skip this race (Ford ended up competing). The uncertainty lead to concern about the quality of competition. However, both Martini-sponsored Porsche (following a win in Monaco), and Mercedes-Benz (following a successful race at the 1977 London-Sidney Rally) were planning to participate. Porsche had secured Vic Preston, Jr. (Nairobi) and Bjorn Waldengard (Sweden) to drive their two entries. Vic drove #14 and Bjorn (1977's winner) drove #5. Peugeot and Datsun each sent four cars to the race.
The weather was unusually wet leading into the race, transforming the roads into rivers and mud bogs, and the race into a dangerous affair. Motorsport Magazine: "Had the rain stopped just before the Rally, the sun would have baked what was left of the roads into the roughest route the event has known, for the absence of a proper dry period meant that no repair work could be carried out on the devastated bush tracks. But the rain didn’t stop, and what emerged was an endless battle with torrential rain, deep clinging mud, landslides, potholes, washaways, flash floods and instant rivers so deep and fast-flowing that crossing one of them was a feat of bravery and ingenuity in itself."
The race was surprisingly close, considering the conditions. Waldegard's #5 911 led early on, but gave up the lead to the Datsun, driven by Aaltonen, after a suspension failure. Aaltonen led until near the end of the race when he became stuck in a ditch, giving up the lead to fellow Datsun driver Kallstrom. Kallstrom then suffered an axle failure, giving the lead to Nicolas in his Peugeot, who won the rally, despite a nearly disabling accident with a spectator's car.
Porsche fared well, with Vic Preston Jr. taking second, and Bjorn Waldegard taking fourth. If not for a couple of repairs late in the race, Preston would have been first - he finished only 37 minutes behind the leader. The race put Porsche in the lead for the World Championship. Porsche finished fourth in the World Championship that year. A very good showing for such a brutal race series. And further proof of the reliability and versatility of the Porsche 911.
A Final Note
There are a few good resources you might want to check out if you're interested. Please contact me if you know of any other resources and I'll add them to the list.
1. A write-up by the Porsche newsroom provides a summary of the race and some nice photos. A must-read if you're interested in Porsche's perspective on the race. Read it here.
2. An Associated Press report covering the race. See it here.
3. A write-up in the British publication Motorsport. Read it here.
4. A walk-around one of the cars at the Porsche museum. See it here.
5. A Porsche produced walk-around of one of the cars. See it here.
11/4/2022 07:28:19 pm
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Hi. I'm Eric Kelner. I restore, modify, collect and, most importantly, drive Porsches. One of my friends has a t-shirt that says: I'm pretty sure my last words will be "Oh sh#%, that didn't work!" These are writings about my experiences restoring, modifying, maintaining and enjoying Porsches. Feel free to comment.