MOMBASA, Kenya- The 2017 Kenya Airways East African Safari Classic Rally has sparked the country’s tourism hub of Mombasa to life over its nine days of riveting action.
Euphoria and excitement reached a crescendo when legendary Hannu Mikkola, tested his sleek Quattro in Vipingo over and above showcasing it at the Sarova Whitesands besides 1984 World Rally Champion, Stig Blomqvist, waltzing into town to reunite with the racing fraternity.
Blomqvist was accompanied by his new navigator, Mattias Edielsson, who was on the verge of guiding the former world champion to his second victory in the 2017 edition of the Safari Classic until mechanical problems set in.
There is also the added glamour of the famous elephant tusks at Moi Avenue which is not only a key landmark of Mombasa but a former start venue of the event where drivers visited and took pictures.
During those days when Safari Classic started off from there, the aging tusks always received a fresh coat of paint in readiness for the show when many thousands of spectators thronged the venue to watch the cars being flagged off.
But due to logistical reasons the venue for ceremonial start moved to Sarova.
Documentation stepped up a gear at the Rally HQ, the north coast hotel, with crews signing in and collecting paperwork.
The shipping containers carrying rally cars and their spares were already in Mombasa Port a week prior and a few of those were seen being off-loaded at the HQ.
As the rally programme wore on, officials worked round the clock to ensure that the logistics supporting the event go without a hitch.
Rally Manager Pipi Renu and Accounts Executive; Darshna Shah have overseen documentation as foreign and local crews trickled in for their share of the pre-rally action.
Also spotted at Whitesands was philanthropic Team Tido Race4Health; David von Schinkel who donated pre-used spectacles to villagers. Race4Health has entered two Porsche 911s for Samuelsson and another for Blomqvist.
What with the chance to see the rally cars at Whitesands, the spectator activity at this palatial hotel has been largely centred on its car parks but there has been plenty to observe elsewhere.
This is principally in Kilindini Harbour where the containers and rally cars were being unloaded and at Mombasa’s Moi International Airport where the arrival lounge was full of people coming to take part in or to watch the KQ Safari Classic.
“Every flight that landed prior to the rally had a sizeable number of Safari Classic crews,” commented Pipi Renu.
The Safari Classic, traversed some historic routes in Kenya and Tanzania covering 4,000 kilometres (2,500 miles) in nine days of competition before returning to finish at the Whitesands Hotel in Mombasa.
Just a few weeks after that, Nakuru will host the final belated round of the 2017 Kenyan National Rally Championship.