The East African Safari Classic Rally is a blend of speed and adventure. It is a true mark of motorsport devotees and the adventurous traveler….
When Eric Cecil and Neil Vincent first thought of it, they wanted something more interesting than driving round and round same tracks. They wanted a rally where they would drive half way through Africa, and come back, and the first car back home would be the winner. They wanted adventure, thrill and speed.
The first rally happened in June 1953 to pay tribute to the coronation of the Queen Elizabeth II. The Rally started in Nairobi, Kenya through Lake Victoria, Uganda and Tanganyika before returning back to Kenya.
The rally happened every year thereafter. It received great attention from the international rally communities. In 1957, the event was scheduled to happen in the Easter weekend to ensure that it did not collide with European events.
It became a popular event among the British motorsports enthusiast living in East Africa. Competitors plowed the rough East African terrain in ordinary cars capable of prevailing through the mud and diverse off road terrains across East Africa. The 5000-6000Km route gained popularity across the world as one of the toughest rally routes.
However, the event was not without challenges. After independence, in the early 1960s, the historic rally route changed. Adjustments were made to the start and finish of the rally to include Dar es Salaam and Kampala. At some point, the Tanzanian government closed its borders to the rally to an extent of banning its citizens from participating in the rally. These among other challenges saw the temporary death of the rally.
In 2003,Mirk Kirkland decided to revive the East African Rally. Only cars built before 1974 were allowed into the rally excluding the modern turbocharged and 4-wheel drive models. The event saw 53 entries and participants covered up to 5,000 kilometers across Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
Since then, the event has gotten better and better. It has grown to be one of the greatest rallies across the world; attracting both the locals and tourists.
Local communities; men and women, the old and the young are often in awe as they watch the cars deep their heads in soil (or mud) and come out victoriously. The trail of dust left behind gloriously covers the faces of the amused on- lookers.
The sun rises and sets and for up to ten days as competitors soak up the beautiful landscapes as their hearts beat faster with thrill. Stopovers are at exotic places along the way where they spend the nights. Limited mechanical support is offered to the motorists along the way.
The East African Safari Rally is to be experienced, savored and enjoyed. The events embed lifetime memories on both competitors and onlookers. As the cars roar across the East African Savanna, it awakens in its true stature. The event remains a remarkable highlight of the international rallying community.