Datsun And The Hardest Rally On Earth, The East African Safari Rally


Safari rally
The East African Safari Rally is considered one of the most, if not the most, grueling auto race in the world. It was, and still is to some extent, the testing ground for reliability in production cars. Up to 90 percent of the cars entered in the race never finish.

The course itself has varied from year to year, averaging from 3100 to or 4000 miles in length, originally travelling though Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. Since 1974, the rally has stayed within the borders of Kenya due to political unrest in the other countries. Nairobi is traditionally the start and finish point for the rally, as well as often being the midpoint where the rally’s big loop stages meet.

So what makes this race so tough?

First there’s the hazards of wildlife and farm animals on the course. Then there’s the earth of Africa itself, which comes in every size and type, from a fine dust that clogs cars and blinds drivers in its huge clouds, to bowling ball sized boulders that punish both drivers and suspension components in equal measure. African roads are not for the squeamish.

But these things are found on every rally course, right?

True you can find some of these condition on some rally courses, but the Safari Rally has one thing that the other rallies really don’t; Rain.

The race is held on the Easter long weekend which falls somewhere between the end of March and the middle of April. This also generally coincides with the beginning of the rainy season. When I say rain, I don’t mean your average April shower, we’re talking about river-swelling, road flooding, mud sliding Rain with a capital R. Rain and red African earth combine to form Mud. This is no mud puddle mud, this is a slicker than ice gumbo that sinks cars like quicksand in bad weather, and dries hard like stucco in the sun. You might as well put axle grease on your tires. Rain and mud have not only claimed the vast majority of cars lost in the Safari rally, but the lives of a few drivers and spectators as well. Rain is the wildcard in the Safari.

And you can’t really prepare for it. Some years the course is dry allowing lots of teams to finish. Other years the course has been so badly flooded that stages have to be re-routed or cancelled outright and teams have slogged for hours over a section that should have taken minutes. Rallys are run on time, and if you fall too far behind, you’re out of the race.

The Safari Rally started out in 1953 as the Coronation Rally, named in honor of Queen Elizabeth. Early competing makes included Volkswagen(beetle), Mercedes, Ford(zephyr), Opel, Austin, Peugeot, Tatra, Fiat, and Ford. Drivers originally started out at three different locations, and finished in Nairobi. This was soon scrapped in favor of a single route for all competitors.

The rally was renamed the East African Safari Rally in 1960 and kept that name until 1973 when it became the Safari Rally. Marlboro sponsored the event for a number of years in the 80’s and their name was added to the title.

Nissans’ participation in this rally goes back to 1963. They couldn’t have picked a worse year to make a debut; the weather was horrendous. A factory team was entered with a pair of 311 Bluebird sedans, one of them co-driven by Wakabayashi and Jack Esnouf. Wakabayashi, known as “Waka” to friends and competitors, would go on to become the safari team manager for Nissan during its most successful years. 1963 became known as the year of “The Magnificent Seven”, with only 7 cars out of 84 starters finishing the 3088 mile race that ran through torrential downpours and flooded sections of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanganyika. Nick Nowicki ended up winning in his Peugeot 404, but anyone who made it to the finish line was touted as a winner and a hero that year. Neither team Datsun finished.
Despite the hellish conditions of the previous year, Nissan came back to the Safari in ’64 with Cedrics. Entered in class D, a Cedric driven by John Jeeves and G Alexander came in 21st overall, second to last of the finishing cars, with last place being reserved for future Nissan works driver Joginder Singh and his Mercury Comet. Ford won the team prize that year with Hughes and Young coming first overall in their Cortina GT.

Although 20th might seem bad, just to finish the Safari was a triumph of driving and machinery for Nissan and its team. Lots of other manufacturers must’ve thought the same; the 1964 Safari was probably the best attended and supported up to that point, due to the benchmark of toughness set by the ’63 Rally. If your car could finish the East African Safari Rally, then it was tough enough to do anything.

Joginder Singh would win the ’65 Safari in spectacular style, taking a PV544 left behind by Volvo after the ’64 race, and winning by 100 minutes on the road. Singh and his brother Jaswant bought the car from the local volvo dealer, rebuilt the car themselves, and entered it privately. With the help of lots of local amateur support, Singh and Singh beat the pants off all the works teams. The team prize would go to Peugeot with its team of 404’s. 85 cars started, but only 16 finished, Nissan did not finish for the second time in 3 years.

The weather didn’t cooperate in 1966 either, with mud and rain being the predominant course feature. Nissan pulled off a bit of an achievement, winning the B class for cars 1001-1300 cc’s. A pair of Bluebird p411’s driven by the teams of JL Greenly and JHP Dunk, and by Jock Aird and Robin Hillyar came in 5th and 6th overall and first and second in class. More importantly, both cars completed the course in a race that 88 cars entered and only 9 finished. The race saw another first as Tanzanians Bert Shankland and Chris Rothwell became the first non-Kenyans to win the Rally.

Shankland and Rothwell would win again in their Peugeot in a much drier 1967 Safari Rally. Datsun returned with a team of Cedric 2000’s, a bulkier car that didn’t perform nearly as well as the earlier Bluebirds. Aird and Hillyar finished 17th overall, followed by Mockridge and Jack Esnouf in 20th and the husband wife team of Jack and Lucille Cardwell in 21st. Not bad considering over half the 91 cars that started the race actually finished it. 1967 was also the first year in a Datsun for the man who would bring the Datsun team fame in a couple years: German driver Edgar Herrmann. Herrmann and co-driver Gerd Elvers lasted less than one stage before encountering severe mechanical difficulties.

safari rally

The Cedrics were back for 68, with the team of Joginder Singh and Bev Smith placing 5th, and the girl power team of Mrs. Lucy Cardwell and Mrs. Gerry Davies coming in 7th and winning the Coupe des Dames. The fact that only 7 cars out of 93 finished the race (all class C cars) may put the results in a bit better light. Singh actually led the race until Himo, but got badly stuck in the mud. Being first cost him as all the other cars found a way around his mud hole to go on ahead. He still managed to cross the finish line in a year that saw another “Magnificent Seven” finishers.

Lucy Cardwell and Gerry Davies had quite an adventure on their rally. First they lost their timecard, only to have it returned just in time by a spectator. Then while running dead last, Lucy tried to charge through a muddy section that all the other cars had had to be towed through. She slid the Cedric off the road and sunk it in a swamp halfway up the doors, then had to wait 20 minutes as the Landrover that had pulled the other teams through in seconds, left to go refuel. Then the two women were almost disqualified in a bizarre incident at a checkpoint. They were still running dead last and far back at the time and were told by the Head Official at the Chilinzi time control that they were too late to continue. He refused to stamp their card so they could go on. No amount of pleading or crying would change the officials mind, so in desperation Gerry grabbed the stamp from the official, stamped her timecard and roared off in the car, the first offical “mugging” in rally history. Only later would the girls find out they’d made a brave choice as time limits had been extended due to road conditions. They would make it to Nairobi 20 hours behind schedule to a heroes welcome, becoming the lucky seventh members of 1968’s Magnificent Seven.

The ’69 rally was limited to Kenya and Uganda due to problems with the Tanzanian government. The race was lead most of the way by the battling teams of Soderstom and Palm in a Ford 20m who would break an axle near the end, and Preston and Garrish in a Cortina that would meet its maker in the form of a bridge abutment. This left lead drivers Robin Hillyar(Ford), and Joginder Singh(Volvo) to fight it out at the finish.

Hillyar won by a hair, or so it seemed. At the end of the race, Hillyars car was found to have much larger valves than specified, a breach of the rules. Ford protested claiming they’d registered the change with FIA thus making it a legal one. Singh waited to find out if he’d won the rally and Ford waited for a telex that would prove thier case. It came, but Ford wasn’t off the hook yet. Those pesky valves were even larger than the size they’d specified in the change, making them slighly illigal. Singh lodged a protest, but later withdrew it when ford claimed the valves had stretched due to the wear and tear of the race, a pretty fishy arguement at best, but one Singh didn’t have the patience to fight.

1969 was also the dawn of a new era at the rally for Nissan, the 510 era. Not only did the team of Jamil Din and Maksood Minhas finish 3rd overall, they lead a SSS510 contingent that swept 6 of the top 13 spots, and more importantly the top 6 spots in their class! Though he came in second in class to Din(and was beaten by former Nissan drivers Singh and Hillyar) the real story of the rally was the performance of Edgar Herrmann.
rally
Herrmann was originally supposed to race for Porsche that year, but just before the rally was to start, the Porsche team withdrew from competition. Herrmann and co-driver Hans Schuller were left to fend for themselves. Fortunately for Herrmann he was still in good favor with the Datsun team. Thinking that Herrmann might keep his Porsche starting position of 3rd, the Datsun team agreed to let Herrmann and Schuller have one of their battered practice cars, a 510sss. The race officials declared Herrmann and his Datsun as a completely new entry and put him at the back of the pack in 90th place.

Knowing that they would have to eat dust for the entire race, Herrmann and Schuller took extremely detailed pace notes (the navigators guide to the course). They ripped through the competition, all the while driving basically blind in the dust, improving their position to 52 by the 6th control point, 32nd place by the 13th post, and an astounding 14th place by the halfway mark.

Din/Minhas and Herrmann/Schuller took the top two spots in Class D (1301-1600cc). the teams arrived at the finish 3rd and 4th on the road and 5th and 6th overall on points. The Manufacturers team prize went to Nissans second team of Randall/Parkinson, Greenly/Collinge, and Saunders/Peating after Nissan A team’s third man Jack Simonian wrecked his 510 just 10 minutes into the first stage to Kampala, “A bank came out and hit me!” he joked.

Herrmann remarked that the 510-practice car had been unbelievably reliable: “we didn’t have to lift a screwdriver”. His performance guaranteed him a ride with Datsun in the following years rally.

The rally is full of colorful stories, and the 69 rally was no different. One driver failed to stop at a stop sign and was disqualified at the finish for it. Future Nissan team driver Rauno Aaltonen, a rally driver of much success had one of the worst and disturbingly funny rally experiences that year. He and co driver Henry Liddon crashed their Lancia near the start, shattering the windshield. The body was too twisted to fit a new one, so they then drove 1700 miles without one. By the time they finished the cars interior, and its two drivers, were caked in dead birds and insects.

The 1970 East African Safari Rally covered 3300 miles and crossed Kenya and Uganda, running at elevations from sea level to 10,000 feet. Herrmann and Schuller drew the number 4 spot for their 510SSS. Joginder Singh and Bharat Bhardwaj, and Din and Mughal drove the other two Datsun team 510’s. A total of 28 Datsuns, mostly 510’s, entered the race.

The rally started in Kampala, Uganda and finished back there 5 days later. It was raining right off the start. 16 cars burst into an earl lead pack, including 4 Datsun 510’s, 3 Fords, 4 Peugeots and just about one of everything else.
Aaltonen lead early on in a Ford, Jack Simonian second in a 510, and then Zasada in another Porsche. Shekhar Mehta was there too, but the used Datsun 510 he’d bought from dealer Simonian blew on the first day. His driving did attract the attention of Nissan, garnering him a ride in 1971 after Joginder Singh left the Works team.

Herrmann and Schuller’s run across western Kenya was pretty uneventful, but things took an ugly twist as the cars climbed the 4000foot Chesoi escarpment. Their 510 lost traction in the mud on the steep slippery slopes and had to crawl up the hills as other cars past them. By the time they made it to the first rest stop they were way out of the top 10. Herrmann and Schuller figured they’d blown the rally.

Jack Simonian was even unluckier. After holding down second place for quite a while, he hit a slick patch of mud at 100 mph and slammed his 510 into a bridge parapet, then plunged 20 feet into a gully. He managed to get the car out, fix it a bit, and continue, but at a much slower pace.
Controversy struck as the Lancia team of Sandro Munari and Lofty Drews, the leaders at the time, were disqualified for leaving a checkpoint 30 minutes early. News also reached teams that a driver had been swept to his death in a raging torrent while trying to cross a flood swollen Tiva river.

The rally looped back into Kampala before heading out for the second half of the race. The Nissan team fitted its cars with tire chains for the next difficult stage, a very wise move. Munari continued to lead the race, even though his status was questionable. Tragedy hit however, when his Lancia crashed and rolled about 150 miles out of Kampala. Simonian’s 510 lost oil and blew an engine. The Safari was beginning to eat cars in typical fashion.

By the end of that stage Herrmann and Schuller were back up to second place, with only the Porsche of Polish driver Sobieslav Zasada ahead of them. The Porsche started to pull away from the little Datsun, but as this rally does time and time again, it took its toll on the faster car. The Porsche developed a serious oil leak and dropped out of the race just after crossing back into Uganda.

As other cars behind them fell out, Herrmann and Schuller drove to victory in Kampala 51 minutes ahead of Singh and Bhardwaj in their 510. Din and Mughal took 4 th with Shankland and Rothwell’s Peugeot filling in the third spot. Mike Kirkland in his privately entered 510 came in 7 th in his first Safari attempt.

Once again the 70 rally has those stories that only rallying can provide, like the tale of Dick Barbour and Mike Doughty. They crashed their totally rally prepped Peugeot 504 the day before the event, then walked into the local Peugeot dealer and bought the one off the showroom floor, painted a number on the side and entered it in the race without further modification.

It should be noted that the 510 not only took overall victory in 1970, it also took class victory and manufacturers victory. To demonstrate just how tough this course is, of the 91 cars entered in 1970 – only 19 finished. Of that number 4 of the top 7 cars were 510’s, with 6 Bluebirds finishing in total.

Herrmann and Schuller would repeat the feat in a 240z in 1971. Herrmann and Schuller started in 11 th spot, with teammates Shekhar Mehta and Mike Doughty, and Rauno Aaltonen and Pieter Easter also starting in good spots. 38 Datsuns were entered in the event, mostly 510’s.

The race is once again divided into two halves, both meeting like a Dali’esque figure 8 in Nairobi where the race begins and finishes. The first leg heads towards the Kenyan coast city of Mombasa.
east african safari rally
Aaltonen charged forward in the early running taking the lead as Herrmann ate dust on the first stage to Mombasa. Waldegaard kept close behind Aaltonen in his Porsche. Jack Simonian held on to his 240z steering wheel for dear life as a tire came apart at 130 Mph, knocking him out of the race.

The race turned south into Tanzania for the first time in a few years, political problems keeping that traditional rally country off the course in previous events. Herrmann crawled up to 4 th place by Dar Es Salaam, while Aaltonen broke a suspension piece and let the lead slip to Porsche racer Bjorn Waldegaard, who had started way back in 33 spot. Then to make matters worse, the Datsun team left the gas cap off Aaltonens car and he lost all his fuel.

Herrmann was passed early in the next section by Waldegaard(Waaldegard was already ahead on time, but Herrmann left the stage start point first) , then worked hard to catch up to him on the road back to Nairobi. Herrmann driving the Z at a steady 130MPH managed to pass Blomquist to take 3 rd spot, while Porsche driver Zasada moved up to second, then into first as the teams arrived back in Nairobi.

On the way to Kampala fortune smiled on Herrmann, and gave Waldegaard a taste of the infamous “Safari luck”. First Herrmann was almost penalized by a race marshal’s error, but after much argument the situation was solved by none other than infamous dictator Idi Amin, then president of Uganda who happened o be watching the race at that checkpoint. Amin flagged Herrmann back onto the road without penalty.

Waldegaard wrecked his Porsche while trying to pass his own teammate Zasada who was ahead on the road but behind on time. Zasada didn’t have his radio on, and Waldegaard assumed Zasada had heard his request to be let through. The Porsches crashed badly. After this, Herrmann and Schuller and a 31 minute time lead over the next car, the 240Z of Shekhar Mehta who was actually ahead on the road at this point.

Aaltonen had fallen back, but had not given up. He charged forward again, passing Hermann on the road near Kabale. Then things got worse for Herrmann and Schuller. Herrmann crashed the car after Mehta passed them, breaking a halfshaft on their car. Fortunately Schuller was able to remove it, and thanks to the miracle of limited slip differentials was able to continue on to the next service point. Aaltonen in the other Z broke a halfshaft and fell far back.

Hermann and Schuller still led time wise, but now by only 16 minutes. Now it was Mehta’s turn to shine. Driving in his home country of Uganda, Mehta raced ahead to take Herrmann’s lead down to just one minute overall. Then Mehta took a very small lead after Herrmann crashed heavily, sending his 240z well off the road. It looked if Mehta would go on to win.

Then disaster struck in only a way that the Safari could manage.

Mehta got his 240z stuck in a mud hole near Mount Kenya. 20 minutes later a police Landrover happened along to pull them out. Just as the Landrover unhooked Mehta’s car, Herrmann ran into the same hole and got stuck. The Landrover still had the rope hooked up and pulled Herrmann through with almost no lost time. Mehta was furious. As the 240z’s finally came to a rest in Nairobi, Mehta and Doughty had lost to Herrmann and Schuller by just 3 minutes on the road, more than 6 times the amount of time they lost in the Landrover incident.
safari rally
t was a fantastic finish for Nissan, if not for Mehta. 240z’s finished first, second, and seventh, with privately entered 510’s finishing in 6 of 32 spots. Datsun once again took Class, Overall, and Manufacturers titles.

Mike Kirkland, future works driver, had one of the funniest 1971 rally moments happen to him, or more specifically to his Sicilian co-driver Paulo Coniglio. Mike drove fast, Paulo drove cautiously. Mike was going full boar through a section of Tanzania when the shit hit the fan. Paulo had the passenger side window rolled down as Mike careened through a group of cattle that were standing on the road. The passenger fender of the 510 clipped the ass end of one of the cows, which promptly exploded sending a shower of cow crap along the side of the car, and directly through the window into Paulo’s face. Paulo, a bit of a neat freak, commented later, “We hit zis-a bloody cow. Now my car is smelling of sheet!”. Despite hitting the cow, Kirkland still managed to bring the 510 in 17 th .

The 72 rally saw disaster for Herrmann and Schuller, as their 240z broke 2 halfshafts and finished the race in 5th place, followed by the other 240z team of Aaltonen and Brit Tony Fall, and Mehta in 10th.

40 of 86 entries in the race were Datsuns. The Works team consisted of Herrmann and Schuller, Mehta and Doughty, Aaltonen and Tony Fall, and in the 610(1800) Ove Anderson and John Davenport.

The race started in the Tanzanian capital of Dar Es Salaam this year, then headed inland towards Nairobi. Herrmann lead the race early as the cars approached Mount Kilimanjaro, then lead all the way into Nairobi, followed by Mikkola, the Junior Preston, Zasada, and Mehta in 4th. Aaltonen was still in the hunt in 6 th .

On the next stage to Kampala, Herrmann’s lead slipped as Mikkola, Zasada, and Preston Junior passed him on time. He fell into 4 th , with Mehta in 5 th and Aaltonen 7 th . The dust was unbearable, and downright dangerous; passing anybody was a huge risk.

All the team Datsuns began having fuel problems somewhere in central Kenya, and began to fall further back. Mehta’s Z broke a steering arm and fell way back on the way into Nairobi for the second time.

On the way out of Nairobi Herrmann managed to get up to 3 rd after passing Preston on route to Mombasa before breaking his rear suspension. Aaltonen missed a checkpoint and had to go back, losing a half hour in the process.

Mike Kirkland was far back but still going strong in 13 th spot when he swerved to avoid a car parked on the road and rolled the 510, crushing one of Coniglios’ fingers in the process.

Rookie Driver Anderson and teammate Davenport had finished against all odds. They’d had endless flat tires, had broken the suspension, run out of gas twice, had electrical failure, and had finally blown a head gasket. The limped home in 12 th .

Another notable finish was that of Ann Taith and Sylvia King, driving a Candy Datsun sponsored 510. They finished 18 th , but were the first ladies team to complete the race since Cardwell and Davies did it in ’68 in a Cedric.

Mikkola won the 1972 Safari, with Zasada coming second, and Vic Preston Junior 3 rd . Exactly half of the cars that finished the 72 rally were Datsuns, pretty good considering that 85 cars started and only 18 finished.

1973 was a return to victory for the 240Z, But not for Herrmann. Shekhar Mehta and his teammate “Lofty” Drews took first place overall and first in class in a dead heat win with Harry Kallstrom and Claes Billstam, who took first in class and second overall in a Bluebird 1800SSS. Fall and Wood finished 4th in their 510.
A total of 7 510’s finished, most in the top 12 spots.

The rally took a different course again that year due to political problems, but this time with Uganda and Idi Amin. Amin had actually ordered the expulsion of Mehta’s family the year before. The race started and finished in Nairobi once again.
The Datsun team lined up as Herrmann and Schuller, Mehta and Lofty Drews, Aaltonen and Easter all in 240z’s, with Harry Kallstrom and Claes Billstam, and Tony Fall and Mike Wood taking a pair of 610sss’s(1800) out for a 5000 kilometer spin.

Also of interest in the field were a rotary Mazda, and Joginder Singh in a hand built Mitsubishi Colt Gallant. Jack Simonian had switched to an Alfa GTV. A race official started quite laugh with the mechanics on hand when he asked if the Mazda’s “head” could be removed so he could inspect the “valves”.

The race started at 4 p.m. local time in Nairobi, with dry skies for the moment. Everyone headed off in the direction of the Usambara Mountains and Mombasa. Herrmann and Schuller went out early with mechanical problems. This was Herrmann’s last rally for Nissan.

Roger Clark took a strong lead early on in a Ford, doing so until the return to Nairobi. Mehta didn’t have it so easy. He and Lofty ran out of gas, then hit a flock of birds that took out most of their night driving lights. At the halfway stop in Nairobi the standings were Clark, Mikkola, Zasada, Kallstrom and Billstam in the 610sss, then Mehta and Aaltonen tied for fifth.

Clark, over an hour in the lead, had to stop and repair a steering problem early in the second half and had to take things cautiously, losing 40 minutes of his of his lead to the other cars.

In contrast Mikkola didn’t take it easy, allegedly driving his Ford Escort into the back of Zasada’s Porsche causing him to roll. The rest of the Porsche team retired due to mechanical problems. Timo Makinen rolled his Escort, followed by Bert Shankland who then rolled his Peugeot. The lead order went Mikkola, followed by Aaltonen, Kallstrom, then Mehta, and Anderson in a Peugeot.

Disaster struck Aaltonen as he came over the Meru Embu section of the course. He hit a muddy off camber corner and rolled the 240z over an embankment. Mehta hit the same bank and tore off an fender, but managed to keep going. He then passed Mikkola who had broken his steering. Kallstrom was now in the lead, with Mehta hot on his heels. Mehta caught up to Kallstrom and took a one minute lead by the finish. It was the closest Safari in history.

Both teams ended up with 406 minutes lost(points). Actually Mehta only had 405, but had been penalized a minute for having a missing headlight. It was a Dead Heat tie!

Ties are broken by a system known as “farthest-cleanest”, sort of the rallying equivalent of a hockey shoot out. The officials look at each teams race results from the starting line of the rally until they find a point were one team was penalized more that the other. Mehta was 2 minutes faster than Kallstrom on the first stage, and was awarded the Safari win as a result. Andersson came in 3 rd in his Peugeot, with Tony Fall and Mike Wood finishing 4 th in the second 610sss.
shekhar
Several years later Shekhar Mehta would win 4 consecutive Safari Rally’s in Datsun 510 violet SSS’s(A10 or PA10) including one of these years when Datsuns would sweep the podium.

Once again, it would be up to Mike Kirkland to add color to the Safari Rally. Mike had finally been able to afford his own 510 to race, free of the jinxed Paulo Coniglio. He teamed up with Bruce Field for a more competitive drive. They were just out of the top ten at the beginning of the second stage when they stopped to refuel. Bruce got out to make sure the fueling was done right. The private fuel team was using 5 gallon cans to do the refueling, a somewhat dangerous idea because of vapors. Someone in the crowd had a cigarette, which then ignited the gas fumes, giving Bruce nasty burns to his legs and catching the car on fire. Mike frantically drove the car away from the fuel dump probably saving lives in the process, then he and Bruce put the 510 fire out. With burnt paint and burnt legs, they continued on to finish the rally ninth overall.

Nissan figured it had proven its point and did not enter an official works team for the 1974 Safari rally. This didn’t stop Privateers from entering Datsuns. The 510 had become the car of choice for private rallyers due to its relatively low cost, it’s durability, and it’s proven ability to win, however none would finish the ’74 race.

Rauno Aaltonen took on a new partner in German W. Stiller and entered a 610sss(180b) as a private entry for 74. Harry Kallstrom and Co-driver Claes Billstam did the same, but in a 260z. Both cars had more power than the 510, and similar suspension set ups. Another finishing team included locals Zully Remtulla and Nizar Jivani in a 260z. Rosemary Smith and Pauline Gullick in another 610sss(1800 Bluebird) would go on to win the Coupe des Dames(the ladies championship) in the 16 th and final spot. It would be the second and last Dames title handed out in the 70’s.

The 1974 rally started as a very punishing a race up a slippery slope. This was the first year the rally was run entirely inside Kenya, the norm from then on. On the first leg up to mount Kenya 70 cars left the race, knocked out due to unrelenting mud and unmerciful East African rain. Things improved weather wise as the race went on, but after the first stage the cars and drivers were in pretty rough shape. Kallstrom and Billstam would go onto place 4th overall in their 260z, with Remtulla and Jivani in 5 th . Aaltonen and Stiller managed to work up into 6th in their 610sss(180b). Rosemary Smith and Pauline Gullick were the only other Datsun finishers.

Nissan brought Works teams back for 1975, but without Mehta or Aaltonen. It would be another hellish year on the Safari trail, with only 14 cars finishing out of the 79 starters. Nissan’s best posting was a 6 th by locals Remtulla and Jivani in a 710 Violet. Datsuns also finished 7 th , 9 th , and 14 th .

1976 was equally as dismal for Nissan, with Harry Kallstrom finishing in 7 th and Remtulla finishing in 8 th , both driving 710 Violets. Two other Nissan pairs were among the 17 finishers. Shekhar Mehta partnered with Mike Doughty and was doing well, but hit a land rover and went out with related damage. Former Nissan driver Joginder Singh lead a team of Mitsubishi Lancers that swept the podium.
rally
1977 saw Aaltonen and Drews finish second overall and first in class in a Datsun 710 Violet, with a 510 finishing 12th overall. Nissan began a slow climb out of the Safari muck, with Remtulla and Jivani in 8 th , Rob Collinge and A. Levitan in 9 th , and second time Japanese entrants Yoshio Iwashita and Kenjiro Shinozuka in 11 th . J. Hellier and K. Shah brought up the rear of the 12 finishers in a good old 510sss. Shekhar Mehta and Mike Doughty continued their unlucky streak, this time retiring due to electrical failure.

Nissan Works teams switched to the New PA10 Violet for 1978(the Hl510 in the US). Mehta and Doughty made it three retirements in as many years by going out about three quarters of the way through the course with a blown engine. He wasn’t the only driver to have bad luck.

Rain became a huge factor early on, with deep slick muddy sections, then vast flooded stages, some of which would require the rally to be rerouted.
Early in the race a young Kenyan drivers car lost control in the mud just outside of Nairobi, killing 4 spectators. Joginder Singh sunk his Mercedes in a 3 foot deep watery section after a huge cloudburst on the second night. His three Mercedes teammates did the same thing later at Marigat.

Bjorn Waldegaard and his Porsche were in the lead, with Vic Preston Jr. following in a second team Porsche. Then Preston hit a submerged rock and severely damaged his suspension, letting the Datsun Violets of Aaltonen and Lofty Drews, Kallstrom, and Mehta get passed him.

The next day a Mercedes would sink in another flooded section, it to take in water and seize its engine, Joginder Singh would go into the water for the second time and blow his engine as well.

By Saturday morning only 42 cars were remaining in the race as it left towards Mombasa. The order was Waldegaard, Aaltonen, Kallsrom, then Makinen in a Peugeot. On the road through the Taita Hills, several major teams went out with suspension damage due to the rough terrain, including Waldegaard who was in the lead.

Aaltonen and Kallstrom were now first and second, with Vic Preston in his Porsche in 3 rd . Things turned bad quickly for the Datsun teams as Aaltonen lost time in the mud, and Mehta’s Datsun blew its engine putting him out of the Safari for the 4th time in a row. Kallstom would go out the next morning with a broken axle near Embu, Makinen and his Peugeot also left the race with a broken drive shaft.

Jean-Pierre Nicolas was now in the lead the final stages in his Peugeot, with the mud delayed Aaltonen hot on his heals. A little too hot it would seem as Aaltonen rolled his Violet down an embankment, allowing Vic Preston to move into second spot. This is how the cars would finish, with Aaltonen patching his car up with borrowed parts in a desperate rush to 3 rd .

Africa had once again thrown everything possible at the drivers, cutting the 73 car field down to a mere 13 at the finish line. Datsun teams also managed to finish in 7 th and 9 th , quite respectable considering no Manufacturers prize could be awarded due to the heavy loss of vehicles.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s