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SAFARI RALLY V

 

THE PACE QUICKENS  

Following the short break at "Dar", where both cars and crews were replenished, the relentless race against the clock continued, north now, on the last long leg through the night to Mombassa and the dawn of the final day’s motoring on Easter Monday.

Things were getting really nail biting for the leading crews. Pat Moss and Eric Carlsson - driving Saabs with their usual skill, flair and nerve - were determined to catch Fjastad and had a very real chance of doing so.  For although the VW should have the advantage over the really rough stuff, as the roads became better approaching Nairobi the Saab would be faster and the two minutes deficit would be possible to claw back.  

Erik Carlsson was now leading the rally after a masterly drive through the car-breaking Umbulu section. This was not, however, to last - Carlsson lost a lot of time on the road to Dodoma, first taking a wrong turning and then due to a marked absence of brakes obtained when a rock went through the floor and severed a brake pipe. He was dropping down the field and was in third place at Dar-es-Salam where the SAAB service crew patched up his vehicle.   

Erik now put on a brilliant display of driving to close within one minute of Fjastad's leading Volkswagen when the SAAB succumbed to the harsh treatment meted out by Carlsson when it's rear suspension collapsed.  Carlsson was now out of contention for the lead, but carried on at a reduced speed to support Pat Moss.  Lumps of wood held in place by fencing wire and a jack now supported his broken rear suspension. He ended the rally in sixth place, one hour down on time to the winning car.  

It was going to be a close run thing, with the odds now in favour of the new leaders Pat Moss & Ann Riley in their Saab 96.  

THE LEAD CHANGES

The Safari as it has been said is not like other rallies - as Pat Moss found out to her cost when an Impala jumped out of the bush during the final night of the rally and landed on the front of her Saab smashing the front of her car, breaking the distributor cap, fan belt and bending the pulley. Erik Carlsson lost twenty minutes helping her to undertake emergency repairs, letting the VW of Tommy Fjastad into the lead for the second time.  

Time lost on repairs, coupled with poor performance on the braking test at the finish - when Pat misunderstood the importance of the test. This cost her any chance of beating the Fjastad VW and also dropped her into third place behind the Peugeot 404 of Zbigniew "Nick" Nowicki, who was then on the same penalties - but had better times on the tie-deciding designated parts of the route.   

Pat did however win the Coupe des Dames - a small consolation for what could have been.  The Safari myth that no European-based driver could win the event was still unbroken, and was to remain so until Timo Makinen broke it for once and all in 1974, driving a Ford Escort.  

So it was a triumphant Tommy Fjastad and Bernhard Schmider who entered Nairobi at the head of the surviving 46 of the 104 cars that started. His VW was placed 1st 0verall, 1st in class C and also won the award for the best Price/Performance Index.  

When he was interviewed Tommy Fjastad said that the car was in excellent condition and was ready to go round again, a prophetic remark, as we shall see.

POST-MORTEM  

When the dust had settled on the '62 event the Cooper Motor Corporation - who were the main Importers of VWs into Kenya  - took stock of the situation. They had won the rally and had used that to promote the Beetle as "The" car for African conditions, and of course to hopefully help Volkswagen sell more cars worldwide.  

One enterprising dealer in the Australian outback even had a fleet of demonstrator Beetles fitted out to look like Rally winning cars, one of which was a replica of KHD 302.  

The real KHD 302 was put on the show circuit before being retired to "Workshop Hack" duties, with all the Safari bits still on the car it was a useful tool to have if some one needed to go somewhere in a hurry.  

For 1963 all the cars were private entries without "Works" backing from the Cooper Motor Corporation, this was to be the year of the "Magnificent Seven" for out of a entry of 84 cars only 7 finished, but not one VW was among them, Nowiki won driving a Peugeot 404.  After the event a statement was issued by Mr D.G.Allen the Managing Director of  The Cooper Motor Corporation, it said: -  

"This year (1963) we gave no help to the VW entrants competing in the Safari - they were all privately owned and driven.  In 1962, when we sponsored a team and won the Safari outright, the cost to the company was over £12,000, plus a considerable loss of workshop time and trade due to a preoccupation with the organisation of service controls, etc., which incidentally also inconvenienced a great many of our customers. We found that at this stage a private company can no longer compete with the works teams such as those from the Ford Motor Company, BMC, etc."  

Given that the cost of a new Beetle in 1963 was about £600 in the UK. That £12,000 to win the Safari equates to close to a Quarter of a Million Pounds today.  They were a very small organisation compared with the European Works Teams.  

It is understandable why they had to stop; also an added factor was that Kenya was in the throws of Independence with many Europeans opting to leave the country. Times were perhaps not so certain as they had been under colonial rule.  

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© Ken Green

 

 

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