And it is this rich history that makes the safari so special. The rally is all about extremes: not just weather extremes – which can range from apocalyptic heat to torrential rain – but also breathtaking landscapes.
The safari is hands down the most photogenic rally in the world, with iconic images from the past showing the cars jumping against the backdrop of Kilimanjaro as Maasai tribesmen watch.
It was always the rally where the crews interacted most with local life as it was driven on the open road – alongside normal traffic – for hundreds of miles of contested sections. Spotter helicopters were radio linked to the cars to warn of hazards (which could include a herd of elephants) and the terrain was almost impassable.
In order to meet the conditions, the teams used to build tailor-made cars with reinforced bodies, daytime running lights and “snorkel” exhausts for the many water holes. Think of it as a cross between the Dakar and the Cannonball Run and you get more or less a picture.
A big part of the safari’s appeal was that it was basically lawless – there’s even a popular legend that a well-known manufacturer in the Group B era cheated by swapping an entire car by getting in the middle of the route Exchanged the whole car – but that’s why she dropped the WRC calendar. Essentially, the safari had to change to accommodate modern day sensibilities. And here we are today.