For the lucky ones who could reach Nairobi under their own steam, the old colonial Safari Park Hotel must have appeared like a particularly well-appointed oasis. Two days of Kenyan roads have reduced a pretty serviceable group of cars to a drawn-out string of battered jalopies – this is African rallying at its toughest.
Underlining just how demanding the conditions have been for the last two days, only 21 of the 42 remaining cars clocked into the final time-control within their time allowance. Many sick cars are being nursed towards the Safari Park Hotel through the night.
Jane Edgington and Gill Cotton in the Maestro were the first crew in a small car to reach Nairobi, though with a bonnet pin torn out by vibration. Jane said: ‘It’s the only thing broken but the car is crying out for some service. I now know what hell looks like, truly dreadful road…it’s an amazing car, I just don’t know how it got here. There’s carnage out there.’
Wednesday sees the first true rest day for the rally, which will be a blessed deliverance after more than a fortnight of continuous driving. How many of the crews will get to spend a day by the pool remains in doubt…frantic repairs and servicing should spoil the break for many.
All the recent turmoil has churned up the running order somewhat, though the top two remain serenely unaffected, bar the odd puncture.
Only three of the top ten are now from the pre-1980 classes, with the Belgian 911 holding an hour’s lead over its nearest rival amongst the classics, Alastair Caldwell’s 912. Previous occupants of the leaderboard have slipped a little, including Atherton and Henchoz in the 144 now resting in 12th, a place behind the Maestro of Edgington and Cotton, but miles ahead of the poor Dutch crew in the BMW 535i with its battle-scarred sump, who are in 28th place, 10 hours off the lead.
Gill said: ‘As we thought days 16 and 17 out from Moyale on the Kenyan border have been the hardest so far. The roads were the worst roads you could possibly imagine and then some. In our first timed section, 68km, we had to get out of the car 3 times as the pipe vibrated off the fuel pump, so we lost quite a lot of time and three positions.
‘The next 168km of road to the camp site where we were staying for the night took us five and a half hours. The car was thoroughly beaten up but still going strong. Day 17 dawned after a fun night’s camping and another 200km of roads that Maestros should never be driven on. We negotiated our way through the boulders and holes and made it all the way to Nairobi.
‘Tomorrow is a rest day but I doubt that there is a single car that doesn’t need a lot of work doing. We have to replace the seals on all of our shock absorbers. But there are a lot worse off than us. The Maestro is still doing us proud!’
Top ten overall
1 14 44m 37 1 E Andy Actman GB Andy Elcomb GB 2010 Toyota Hilux 3000
2 23 48m 46 2 E Steve Blunt GB Bob Duck GB 2006 Subaru Impreza 1994
3 26 2h 01m 30 3 E David Tomlin GB Nicholas Adcock GB 2003 Land Rover Defender TD5 2495
4 18 2h 15m 21 4 E Rod Taylor GB Ian Morgan GB 2010 Toyota Hilux 2982
5 33 2h 36m 10 1 B Owen Turner GB Matthew Fowle GB 2002 MG ZR 1589
6 35 2h 40m 19 1 C Alastair Caldwell GB Hayden Burvill AUS 1968 Porsche 912 2000
7 45 2h 42m 39 1 D Joost Van Cauwenberge B Jacques Castelein B 1973 Porsche 911 3000
8 47 2h 46m 27 5 E Patrick Beckers B Egfried Depoorter B 1992 Toyota Landcruiser 80 4200
9 46 2h 48m 13 6 E Rene Declercq B Francis Tuthill GB 2010 Toyota Hilux 3000
10 15 3h 03m 26 2 B Jane Edgington GB Gillian Cotton GB 1986 MG Maestro 1598