2019 Safari Rally – Tough & Dusty

2019 Safari Rally Celica GT4 sideways

In early June we competed in the longest-running rally in Australia and indeed the southern hemisphere. The 2019 Safari Rally is a piece of Australian rally history.

54 years of Safari in WA

The Light car club of WA started running the Safari Rally in 1966. Alongside the sport the event has evolved. Over the years it’s moved home several times, changed sponsors and formats. In 2015 I had the honor of being the clerk of course for the 50th anniversary of the event. This year the 2019 Safari rally was based in Boddington and sponsored by Better Value Tyres.

Behind the Scenes – 2019 Safari Rally

Running a rally is no mean feat. It takes a hell of a lot of work and I can tell you that from personal experience. Sometimes we’re not always aware of the reasons why things happen on events and that’s very true of the 2019 Safari rally.

Initially the organisers planned to run over a great number of stages and have some decent competitive kilometers. Behind the scenes the event is staged on private property. Some of those properties were sold during the final stages of planning for the 2019 Safari Rally therefore the organisers could only get access to limited sections of road.

The land sales left the 2019 Safari rally with just two stages that were run three times. Competitive kilometers plummeted to 90 kilometers. Even at the death’s knock when cars were on the start line they had to change the running order of the event. It came down to an issue with the timing system that couldn’t cope with the way the running schedule was planned. Round 3 of the 2019 Rally WA championship calendar was an interesting one!

Trouble at the start

At the ceremonial start our Irish mates Glen Alcorn and Shaun McMacken had trouble with their Ford Escort RS2000. Unfortunately the clutch cable broke and they had to hastily work on the car using the tools and spares they had on board. The boys fixed the clutch cable and did get the car to the first stage albeit quite late.

They completed SS1 of the 2019 Safari Rally and part of SS2 before they had some more dramas. The differential failed and therefore all their hard work was undone and Glen were forced to retire.

Rally Action team – 2019 Safari Rally

Behind all the drama and confusion we ran a three car team at the 2019 Safari Rally. We had Mark and Graham in the Celica GT4, Lance and Chris in the Silvia and Hugh and Karen in their V8 Commodore.

Bent on the first stage

Once the rally got underway the first couple of stages went OK, well for the state competitors anyway. Lance and Chris had a bit of a different story in Clubman. Unfortunately they only got about three km into SS1 one when trouble struck. They ran a little bit wide on the outside of a left corner and into a very large water rut that was partially a drainage ditch.

Lance & Chris sideways in their Silvia rally car early in the 2019 Safari Rally

Unfortunately the Silvia took a nasty whack and it bent all the right-hand rear suspension and the cross member. We didn’t have the parts or time to to fix it in service so they were out of the 2019 Safari rally very early.

Conditions worsening

By mid event the conditions if anything were deteriorating. The dry roads were crumbling under the pressure becoming rough and rutted.  There was no wind at all, it was very dusty and the afternoon sun was beginning to set. The latter combination provided blinding conditions.

Hugh and Karen literally stopped in the stages a few times because they had a complete lack of visibility. At one point they went off the road into a ditch in the dust. There was quite a bit of damage to the front of the Commodore and wisely Hugh decided to withdraw at the 2nd service.

Toward the finish

The last special stage ran at night. With dark added to the conditions there was more or less a floating curtain of mud hanging over the roads. As each car passed the dust became thicker. Mike Joss had a lucky break drawing car one in his S15 Silvia. He and co-driver Megan had a reasonable advantage with vision. They finished the 2019 Safari rally in fourth place, a sterling effort for a 2WD car.

 The youngest driver in the field Kelly Thomas with dad Dave alongside finished eighth. It was another strong showing for the 17 year old in her WRX. These conditions definitely added to her bank of experience for rallying.

Red and white at the finish

With two of our team cars withdrawn there was only Mark and Graham left flying the flag. The dust played havoc with them and therefore they went off the road a few times. Once in the dark they spun the Celica and precious time ticked away whilst they tried to work out the correct way to go. The guys brought the red and white Toyota home in 13th place.

Side Note – Fire Pit to keep us warm!

Whilst it might have been pretty warm during the day it did get bloody cold at night. One thing that made it a lot more comfortable in the service park was our fire pit. During the rally several people asked “Where did you get the fire pit from?” It was made by Rustic Metal Works based in Toodyay.

Wrap Up

This event has always had a reputation for being a bit tough. This year the 2019 Safari Rally was probably one of the toughest we’ve ever done. It was good to get to the finish of the rally. It was going to be a busy few weeks getting the cars sorted for the next event.

Fingers crossed by then we will have had some rain without a complete flooding and needing Noah’s Ark. The Kirup Stages Rally is in Kirup near Donnybrook in July.

Photos by Blake Rattenbury – https://www.blakerattenburyphotography.com/

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