1972 Safari Rally
Easter came round again and we made the long flight down to Nairobi. There had been no rain and there would be no rain while the Rally was being staged.
This would make things very difficult for the crews in the rally and for us. The cars would be speeding across the Murrum blowing up huge plumes of dust which flew into the air to about forty feet and trailing away as a tail two hundred yards long.
The Safari Rally was already known as the most gruelling rally in the world, but this would make it even more gruelling.
Once again Mohinder Dhillon and I went off to Wilson’s Field, the local aerodrome from where all the light aircraft and executive jets took off. There we expected to hire one of the local commercial helicopters. One of the machines was down for a service and would not be ready for two weeks. The Ford Film Unit had beaten us to it. They had hired the remaining helicopter and they were mightily pleased to have got one over us. However, they did not have the same association with the local police that we, through Mohinder Dhillon, had. We hired the services of the police Bell helicopter, once again. “Because there was no other available”. In the event, we had the last laugh, the Ford helicopter broke down and the Ford crew asked us if our cameraman Paul Badin could shoot some material for them. We agreed.
The pilot was different from the previous year. He was also a European with the noticeable difference that he had lost his right hand.
It seems that he had lost the hand in a light aircraft accident during the previous year.
When Badin returned from his first flight with him he kept saying “Caoutchouc !” and shaking his head.
He explained that the pilot had attached his right forearm to the cyclic stick (the joy stick) with a heavy duty rubber band.
All the cars entered by works teams, like Nissan, Peugeot, Ford and Porsche had enormous back up with spare everything and, especially, fuel. It was necessary to provide fuel because the local petrol from the pump was unreliable. The quality of the petrol did not seem to cause too much trouble to the local every-day driver, but to the finely turned Rally cars it could clog the fuel lines.
A British entrant, driving in the rally with a Range Rover with no back-up decided that he would re-fuel at normal gas stations. He got no more than 300 miles, which was probably how far he could have got with his original tank of petrol obtained from the Ford team. It seems that he filled up with dirty fuel.The helicopter was working overtime because, as in years gone by, we had used it to move Badin from place to place as well as an aerial platform.
Mohinder had found some locations where Badin could get off the helicopter film the passing of a number of cars, get back into the helicopter, go across country and set down in another location where he could film the same cars further down the track.
Rauno Aaltonen in a Datsun 240Z came in third. The race was won by Hannu Mikkola and Gunnar Palm driving a Ford RSD1600. Hannu Mikkola, who I had known since the 1967 Safari when I interviewed him for ATV, told me that that car had cost £25,000 at a time when a standard ford RS 1600 bought from a dealer would have cost less that £1,500.
There were only a handful of finishers out of the two hundred or so starters.
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