Datsun and The East African Safari Rally
So you think of Africa and you picture Lions, Zebras, and Elephants, vast
Savannas and dusty Land Rover roads. You imagine searing sunshine, shield and
spear wielding tribesmen, and burnt red earth. So what would make this the home
of arguably the toughest rally in the world?
Read on and learn...
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
with Shankland and Rothwell's Peugeot filling in the third spot. Mike Kirkland
in his privately entered 510 came in 7
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
It 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
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
On the next stage to Kampala, Herrmann's lead slipped as Mikkola, Zasada, and
Preston Junior passed him on time. He fell into 4
, with Mehta in 5
and Aaltonen 7
. The dust was unbearable, and downright dangerous; passing anybody was a huge
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
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
Mike Kirkland was far back but still going strong in 13
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
Another notable finish was that of Ann Taith and Sylvia King, driving a Candy
Datsun sponsored 510. They finished 18
, 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
. 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
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
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
in his Peugeot, with Tony Fall and Mike Wood finishing 4
in the second 610sss.
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
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
and final spot. It would be the second and last Dames title handed out in the
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
. 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
by locals Remtulla and Jivani in a 710 Violet. Datsuns also finished 7
, and 14
1976 was equally as dismal for Nissan, with Harry Kallstrom finishing in 7
and Remtulla finishing in 8
, 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.
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
, Rob Collinge and A. Levitan in 9
, and second time Japanese entrants Yoshio Iwashita and Kenjiro Shinozuka in 11
. 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
Aaltonen and Kallstrom were now first and second, with Vic Preston in his
Porsche in 3
. 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
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
, quite respectable considering no Manufacturers prize could be awarded due to
the heavy loss of vehicles.
Then came the Mehta years...
The Shekhar Mehta Dynasty
Shekhar Mehta is arguably, the most successful driver in the history of the
East African Safari Rally. In his 20 years of Safari rallying, Shekhar has 5
overall victories, one second place, and has finished the rally on five other
occasions. Joginder Singh and Bjorn Waldegaard have had more top ten finishes,
but no one has ever topped the five outright wins of Mehta.
Shekhar is a Ugandan of Indian descent. He was born Chandrashekhar Mehta on
June 20th, 1945 in Kampala, Uganda's capital city. He spent his early years on
his family's tea and sugar plantations, then was shipped off to Europe for
schooling. He returned to Uganda to work in the family business in 1965.
Shekhar started his rally career in a BMW 1800 at the Nile Rally. He won his
second rally entered, but this time he was driving a Renault. He took on track
racing, starting with a BMW 2002tii. Track racing was actually his first love,
not rallying. His first Safari Rally entry was in the 1968, but he failed to
finish the first stage due to the horrendous weather conditions of that year.
He managed to place 27th in his second Safari, lagging due to incredibly
unreliable wheels on his Peugeot.
Shekhar was all set to give up rallying and concentrate on track racing when
fate intervened. He went to a hillclimb event in Tanzania, and there he met a
friend of his who had just bought a rally prepped Datsun 1600sss(510). Shekhar
went along for a spin as a co pilot and fell in love with the car.
He bought a well-worn 1600sss from Jack Simonian and entered it in the 1970
Safari, but the engine blew and he retired from the event. Shekhar then spent
the rest of a very successful rally year touring Africa and entering rallies in
his 1600sss with the help of his girlfriend Yvonne and new Co-Driver Mike
Doughty. He even went to Britain and entered the RAC Rally, but failed to
Shekhar got his big break thanks to Joginder Singh. Joginder was supposed to
drive for Datsun in 1971 in a new 240z, but went with Ford at the last minute.
Datsun had watched Shekhar develop over the last year and decided to give him a
shot in Joginder's car.
I've already told the story of the 1971 Safari Rally here, but not from
Shekhar's perspective. Shekhar was in the top ten for most of the race, and
gradually worked his way up to 3rd behind Herrmann and Aaltonen in the other
Z's. Aaltonen then dropped back with suspension problems, and Shekhar caught
and overtook Herrmann on time points. Shekhar should've won the rally, but
"Safari Luck" intervened again with the infamous Mud –Land Rover story.
Shekhar would go on to rally for Datsun all over Africa, with appearances in
European and Asian rallies for the next few years, as well as steady
appearances in the Safari Rally. He and his family were forced to leave Uganda
in 1972 by the Government of Idi Amin, so they set up house and business in
He won the 1973 Safari Rally in a Datsun 240z in a dead heat with Harry
Kallstrom. The win garnered him international respect and he was invited to
rally all over the world that year.
Despite his success with Nissan, Shekhar and co-driver Mike Doughty switched to
a Lancia for the 1974 and 1975 Safari's, but failed to finish both times. He
switched back to Nissan and its new Violet for 1976, 1977, and 1978, but failed
to finish due to a variety of problems. He and new wife Yvonne had placed 3rd
in the Acropolis Rally in 1978. By 1979, Shekhar Mehtas Safari career was on
the bubble. He had failed to finish in his last 5 straight Safari attempts.
Nissan gave him a Violet 160j(HL510/A10) for the race, but told him that he had
to perform better or he was gone.
He performed better than anyone could've imagined.
The 1979 Safari Rally
The major players for the 1979 event were Mercedes and their team of 450SLC
coupes, with driver Bjorn Waldegaard taking the point. Then came the Peugeots
lead by Timo Makinen, and the Fiats with Munari as their strongest driver.
In past rallies the Datsun tactic had been to have the local drivers take it
easy on their cars for the first half of the race, and let the foreign drivers
beat their cars into the ground. The rally was a race of durability as much as
a race of driving skill. Shekhar Mehta wanted to change this for the 1979
rally. He demanded that the Nissan team let him go all out from the start.
He and Mike Doughty put the pedal to the metal right from the get-go. They had
stripped the car of most of its spare parts and tools, praying that the car
would be dependable, and that they wouldn't get it stuck anywhere. It paid off
By the second leg, Mehta and Doughty were in a pack at the front with just
Makinen, Waldegaard, and Munari. He and Waldegaard dueled it out for a while
before Waldegaard pulled ahead in the more powerful Mercedes. Mehta's car
suffered some suspension damage and dropped back even further.
The third leg saw the traditional Safari mud slowing down leaders Mikkola and
Waldegaard, both in Mercedes. Mehta and Doughty kept within range. Then both
Mercedes fell back with mechanical difficulties, Waldegaard with a blown rear
axle and Mikkola with a hole in his radiator, allowing Mehta and Doughty to win
by 48 minutes.
Shekhar had his second Safari rally victory and at the same time had proven
that the Datsun Violet could run as a hard as the big boys and still be
dependable. He had also saved face with Nissan.
Nissan won the Manufacturers team prize in 1979, with Rauno Aaltonen and Lofty
Drews finishing 5th, Mike Kirkland and Dave Hawworth in 7th in an older Works
710( Mike was driving officially for Nissan for the first time), and Harry
Kallstrom and Claes Billstam placing 9th. Hellier and K Shah brought an older
710 in in 13th spot, while Japanese stars Iwashita and Nakahara slid in 2 spots
back in 15th in their PA10 Violet. Six finishers in the top 15 was a good sign
of things to come for Nissan, and for all the drivers mentioned.
The 1980 Safari Rally
Mercedes had been badly embarrassed by their performance in the 1979 Safari and
were out for blood in the '80 event. They'd enter a team of 5 450SLC's, and had
worked out the service and support problems that had cost them the last Safari.
Bjorn Waldegaard was back for a little vengeance, with an all star team of
Vic Preston Jr., Joginder Singh, Hanna Mikkola, and Andrew Cowan backing him
Nissan was on top with their performance at the last rally, but were by no
means resting on their laurels. Nissan had decided to up the ante by racing
their new twin cam 16 valve engine in class 2, instead of the stock L20b that
the older Violets had. At the last minute Rally officials told them the new
engine wasn't legal yet, so they had to switch back to the old engines,
dropping them back to class 4. Leading the pack for Nissan was Shekhar Mehta
and Mike Doughty, then Rauno Aaltonen and Lofty Drews, and Mike Kirkland and
Opel was the other team that wanted to make a good show at the rally, and had
entered a team of Ascona 400's, with star driver Jean-Pierre Nicholas and
co-driver Harry Liddon leading their charge, and Klient and Wagner as their
The 1980 rally was the hottest driest event on record, presumably giving the
advantage to Mercedes. Dust would be a factor in this event, giving the
advantage to the lead teams that didn't have to spend as much time driving in
it. The Mercedes struggled in the mud in past races with their higher
horsepower engines, but could fly in the dry conditions. The Datsun Violets
were better in the mud, and had proven to be more reliable, but in the dry
conditions wear and tear shouldn't have been such a factor. Or so it seemed.
The first 28 hour section ran from Nairobi to Kisumu, then on overnight to
Eldoret for the mandatory breakfast stop, then down through Nakuro and back
into Nairobi for the rest period. Mercedes as predicted were ahead on the
first stage with driver Andrew Cowan, but only just as Shekhar drove his Violet
like a madman and challenged the bigger Mercedes all the way. Mehta then lead
for a while as the Mercedes and Opels fell behind with flat tires. Harry
Kallstrom took advantage of the situation by driving in faster dust free
conditions and taking the lead on and off.
Mercedes effort was starting to show signs of breaking, quite literally. Hannu
Mikkola broke a caliper and fell back; Joginder Singh rolled his Mercedes early
on and was pretty much out of contention.
At Eldoret the standings were stacked like a sandwich with Nissan then Mercedes
taking alternating placings: Mehta-Datsun, Waldegaard-Mercedes,
Kallstrom-Datsun, Cowan- Mercedes, Aaltonen-Datsun, and Preston-Mercedes.
Mehta lead on the way back into Nairobi, but stopped to change a bent wheel and
let Waldegaard and Kallstrom go ahead of him on the road, if not yet on time.
Mehta got a turn at eating dust now all the way back to Nairobi.
Waldegaard's Mercedes arrived at the midpoint in Nairobi a minute ahead of
Mehta on points. Waldegaard went out front on the second leg, increasing his
lead over second place Mehta.
But Mercedes reliability started to falter, as did their luck. Hannu Mikkola
went down with axle failure and, while doing the repairs, Mikkolas' co-driver
was hit by another car, sending him to the hospital. Then later in the stage
Waldegaard crashed and let Mehta take the lead again. Waldegaard's Mercedes
started overheating and soon fell further back. Opel was pretty much out of
contention by this point, with constant punctures and various mechanical
failures. Jean-Pierre Nicholas made a valiant run to keep up with the pack.
With Mercedes starting to fall back, it looked as if Mehta would have a nice
dust free drive to his second straight Safari title, with Kallstrom in second.
But the Safari threw its next set of curve balls at Nissan. First Mehtas car
suffered a pair of punctures, allowing Andrew Cowan to take his Mercedes into
the lead. Then Harry Kallstrom's Violet snapped a valve, ending his rally.
The end of stage 2 saw Cowan leading by a minute, with Mehta second, Aaltonen
back over 20 minutes in 3rd, Waldegaard a minute behind him in 4th and Preston
and Kirkland in 5th and 6th respectively.
It looked as though Mercedes and Nissan would duel it out to the end. No so.
First Waldegaard's Mercedes went out with the same axle failure as Mikkola had
suffered earlier, then Cowan in the lead suffered the same fate. Vic Preston
was all Mercedes had left, and he was far back. Preston made a dash towards
the front, but couldn't catch the two leading Datsuns.
As the race came to an end and Mehta drove on problem free to victory, Aaltonen
damaged his steering and limped into Nairobi 30 minutes back in second. Preston
saved a little face for Mercedes coming in third. Mike Kirkland and Dave
Haworth had their best finish to date bring in their Violet in 4th. Nissan had
two more top ten finishers, with Yoshio Iwashita and Yoshimasa Nakahana of
Japan bringing their privately entered Silvia S100 in 7th and John Hellier and
co-Driver Chris Bates finishing in 9th, just ahead of Waldegaard.
Nissan and its drivers had proven that not only were the Violets reliable, but
they could run as fast as almost anybody could; the horsepower advantage of
Mercedes had effectively been nullified. Nissan had won the team prize again,
and had had 11 of the 24 finishes in the race including the newer Silvia, the
PA10 violets, the older 710's, and even a 120y coupe.
The 1981 Marlboro Safari Rally
So how could Shekhar Mehta and Mike Doughty top two consecutive Safari wins? By
trying for the Hat Trick. It would turn out to be the longest victory in the
history of the rally, taking months after the race to resolve, with much bad
blood between old friends.
Nissan had finally got its twin cam engine on the books as a legal entry,
calling the car the Violet GT to distinguish it from the standard 160J/PA10.
Shekhar and Mike Doughty were once again the lead team with Nissan, then Rauno
Aaltonen and Lofty Drews also in a Violet GT, and Mike Kirkland and Haworth in
the standard 160j. Timo Salonen was also driving for Nissan, but in a different
car, the 200sx or Silvia. Nissan also entered a turbocharged Bluebird, but the
car went out on the stage to Mombasa.
Mercedes had had enough and left Peugeot with the 504 and Opel with the Ascona
to mount the competition against the seemingly unstoppable Datsuns. Dodge
showed up as well with a set of Ramcharger trucks, the first American entry in
The dust was gone, but the rain was back and it was doing its best to make up
for the previous year's absence. The first section from Nairobi over the Mau
escarpment was rerouted due to flooding, and the cars cruised on pavement
almost all the way to Kisumu near Lake Victoria. With all the time allowed for
the stage saved by driving the direct route, some drivers, including Aaltonen,
had time to stop for a nice lunch at the Rift Valley Country Club. Of course
even on the pavement the hazards of rallying couldn't be avoided as 30 car
received speeding tickets from Kenyan police officers, a new wrinkle in the
sport. One team actually went out of the running on the pavement, the first
Dodge team left with major transmission problems after only a short time on the
road (God only knows how long they would've lasted on the dirt- always thought
Ramchargers were junk).
The next morning the drivers were faced with a safari challenge that seemed
almost insurmountable. In the span of just 24 hours, the equivalent of ten
years worth of rain had fallen in the Cherangani Hills section of the course.
Safari newcomer Anders Kullang took his Opel Ascona through the section with
ease to take an eleven minute lead over the rest of the field.
Others weren't so lucky. Timo Salonen in the Silvia and Guy Frequelin in the
504, in second and third that morning, both started to fall back. Jochi
Klient, another Opel works driver, dropped over an hour behind with steering
failure. Makinen and Frequelin both had problems on the second day with
clutches in their Peugeots, due to the low gear pace of the race. The next two
Ramchargers dropped well back with suspension and electrical problems. The
roads developed deep ruts due to the hard pace of the race, causing many a car
to go out with punctures.
All this mud and rain went in Nissan's favor. By the end of the first leg
Datsuns sat with Timo Salonen in second in the 200sx Silvia, Mehta and Doughty
in 3rd, and Aaltonen and Drews in 4th. Anders Kullang kept his lead going in
the Opel. Every team suffered from a plague of punctures due to the boulders
that were being chewed up in the mud.
Mehta was third as the cars arrived back in Nairobi for the middle rest period.
He next morning saw no let up to the rain and another 50 mile section was
cancelled on the route to Mombasa due to heavy flooding. The conditions
didn't help the Peugeot teams of Makinen and Frequelin, as both teams had to
retire after burning out their clutches. Datsun and Opel teams fought it out
on the way to Mombasa and down the coast.
The next morning the teams were greeted with a bit of a reprieve as conditions
grew drier and sunny. Timo Salonen charged ahead of Kullang's Opel, only to
crash his Silvia into a Land Rover. The Datsuns tough dependable nature began
to fall into question as Mehta burnt a starter and Aaltonen's car began to come
apart at the seams. By the time the cars left Mombasa on Easter Saturday
afternoon, only 39 remained, with 1500 miles to go. Kullang was still in the
lead with his Opel with Mehta neck and neck behind him.
Then "Safari Luck" struck another blow as Kullang, the leader for most of the
race, toasted a cow with his Opel. He still lead, but not for long as he put
his Opel in a ditch a short time later. The Peugeot teams weren't having much
luck either with clutch failures impending on Ambrosino's and Lefebvre's cars.
The Datsuns were all that was really left of the leaders, and were now running
1 through 4 on time and on the road into Nairobi for the end of stage 2
The final leg saw Mehta lead Salonen and Aaltonen out of Nairobi in a rally
that was now down to just 28 cars. Salonen wanted to win and Aaltonen wanted
it even more, so they and Mehta ignored Nissan team orders to take it easy
through the night and conserve the cars.
Around midnight all of the teams ran into a new delay. A section of the road
had become submerged under 5 feet of water due to the unstoppable rain. The
cars were hauled through with big trucks, but one of the Peugeots got stuck and
was nearly swept away.
Flood damage to Mehtas car allowed Aaltonen to take the lead near Baringo
despite team orders not to do so, but Mehta soon caught up and the two went at
it no holds barred. Aaltonen was tired of being second and he wanted to win.
Mehta was so mad that Aaltonen had ignored team orders that he actually rammed
Aaltonen's car. Aaltonen returned the favor, putting a large dent in Mehta's
Violet. Mehta lead by seconds at the final check point at Nyeri when Nissan
team manager "Waka" told them to stop the nonsense. He told Aaltonen that Mehta
was in the lead and that things were going to stay that way to the finish line.
Aaltonen, a fierce competitor, was understandably furious, but followed orders
Mehta crossed the finish line in Nairobi 5 minutes ahead Aaltonen to take his
3rd straight Safari victory. Or did he?
Aaltonen protested the win, citing time he had lost earlier in the race due to
a wrongly located time check, and on other stages. Initially race officials
ruled in his favor, moving Mehta into second place 9 hours after the finish but
that decision was overturned later on appeal. Apparently Aaltonen had no right
to file the first appeal so, after much debate and much time, Mehta was awarded
the win and Aaltonen was forced back into second. Mehta and Aaltonen had been
good friends up to this point, but now became bitter enemies. Aaltonen never
raced for Nissan again.
Nissan had their best performance ever in the rally, with Mike Kirkland coming
in 3rd behind Aaltonen to sweep the podium for the team. Timo Salonen brought
the Silvia in 4th, with Iwashita and Nakahara in 7th, and Shah and Rahim in
8th. Datsuns took 12 of the 21 finishing positions with teams driving
everything from 180b's to Silvia's to older 710's to every version of the
Violet. Nissan won the team prize of course, capping a nearly perfect race with
the exception of the Aaltonen -Mehta controversy.
The 1982 Marlboro Safari Rally
Everybody was watching Mehta and Aaltonen for this rally. Mehta was driving a
2 liter Violet GT again, while Aaltonen had taken a ride with Opel and their
Ascona. Datsuns dominance of the event was starting to show, as fewer and
fewer international entrants were willing to risk being defeated by the
Japanese upstarts. Subaru and Mitsubishi were there in force, as were Opel,
but other that a couple Porsches and some private entries the field was very
Nissan entered both the PA10 Violet GT of Shekhar Mehta and Mike Doughty, and
the VioletGTs/200sx. Another turbocharged Datsun Bluebird was in the field, but
it failed to finish for the second straight year.
The first half of the race was relatively uneventful. The course was dry and
dusty, with the exception of a few well placed mud holes that managed to
swallow the occasional car and driver. One of the victims of this was Brit
Tony Pond who was driving for Nissan. Every one of the leaders had some sort
of problem or another. Aaltonen, the leader, broke a ball joint. Mehta had a
differential failure, and Rohrl buried the second Opel in a mud hole. Timo
Salonen had serious brake problems with his Silvia/Violet GTS. Munari was
there driving a Porsche, but transmission troubles all but ended his race early
45 of the 73 original cars made it back to Nairobi in fairly good shape, with
Aaltonen in first, Mehta 16 minutes behind, and Rohrl in the second Opel behind
The second leg started out dry like the first. Noticeably absent on this leg
was Munari and his Porsche who hadn't even bothered trying to finish due to his
transmission problems. Timo Salonen's Datsun was out too, with a long list of
complaints. Then the little things started to go wrong as usual. First Rohrl's
Opel blew its belts. Then local Rob Collinge's Range Rover had its hood come
loose causing him to crash blindly, breaking his front axle. And then Rauno
Aaltonen had the toughest break of all. For some reason cars had been eating up
rear differentials like popcorn on this rally. Nissan had gone through six on
the first stage, and others had had similar experiences. Aaltonen wasn't
unlucky to lose an axle he was just unlucky enough to do it in the middle of
nowhere. By the time a chase car reached him and axles could be swapped, he'd
lost 113 minutes. Aaltonen was effectively out of reach of the lead, dashing
his hopes of defeating his rival.
Back in Nairobi at the end of stage 2, it was Mehta in the lead, followed by
the Opel of Rohrl, then Aaltonen back in third, followed by Mike Kirkland in
his Violet GTS, then Tony Pond in another GTS.
The cars headed out for the last leg around Mount Kenya. Tony ponds caught and
passed Shekhar Mehta and Mike Doughty on the road then cleared a path for them
through the wildlife and other mobile road hazards. The road was dry and life
was pretty mundane for the drivers, except for "the unlucky Finn"; Rauno
Aaltonen threw a rod in an engine that had never thrown a rod in competition
before, ending his 19th attempt to win the Safari.
Mehta cruised on to victory for the fourth and last time, while Tony Pond broke
a suspension component, letting Mike Kirkland pass into 3rd. Second place was
held by Rohrl and co-driver Geistorfer's Opel.
The crowds cheered as local hero Mehta took the ramp back in Nairobi, setting a
Safari Rally win total that has yet to be broken, and probably never will be.
Mike Kirkland arrived third for his second podium finish in as many years. Tony
Pond made a fabulous debut bring in his GTS in fourth, with local stars Jayant
Shah and Aslam Khan making it 4 out of the top five for Nissan. Nissan had 7
of the 21 finishers in the race, another outstanding finish.
It was Mehta's, and Nissans, last Safari win. 1983 saw a whole new Class system
that basically eliminated the cars that had dominated before. Another arrival
on the scene had an equal impact, the Audi Quattro, a car that would change the
world of rallying forever. The dawn of the All Wheel Drive – Four Wheel drive
had started. Subaru was in the game, as was Toyota, but Nissan never joined
Nissan had some great successes, notably with Mike Kirkland in a 240RS(the
rally version of the 240SX) placing third in 1985, then placing second in '88
and '89 in a 200sx. Mike was still with the team when Nissan pulled out of
World Rally competition after the 1991 season.
Shekhar Mehta kept rallying for a couple more years until a serious accident
forced him to retire in 1987. He joined the management team of the Safari
Rally and lead the organization for quite a number of years.
Mike Doughty left Shekhar to organize the Safari Rally after their 1982
victory. He ran it for several years, including 1987 from his bed after he and
Shekhar crashed badly during the Rally of the Pharoahs in Egypt.
Rauno Aaltonen gave up on the Rally in 1987 after 23 attempts. He still managed
to pull off 12 top ten finishes, a fantastic record for any driver, but the
outright win he wanted eluded him to the bitter end.
Edgar Herrmann quit 2 years earlier in 1985. Like Aaltonen, Edgar had 23 Safari
attempts under his belt, but he only managed to finish 5 times, 4 of them with
Datsuns, including his two wins.
Joginder Singh as far as I know is still racing on and off to this day. Jo has
an incredible Rally record; 3 wins, 13 top ten finishes, and only 3 retirements
in 22 years of Safari. Mehta and Waldegaard(4) may have more wins, but Singh
is probably the greatest Safari driver ever. He now lives in Canada.
The Safari Rally is still going strong. You can see them on the web soon at: