Women crew Morgan-Hughes and Bleicher made a mark at rally action

Navigator Nicola Bleicher at Ol Kalou checkpoint. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

The tenth edition of the East African Safari Classic Rally came to an end in Watamu, Kilifi County yesterday.

The event attracted 48 solid drivers who battled for straight nine days looking for the elusive gong.

Part of the 48 were two dare-devil women who combed the rough terrains to ultimately make it to the finish line.

Kenya’s Lynda Morgan-Hughes and Nicola Bleicher of Germany braved the mud, sweat, heat, dust and the scorching sun to conquer the tough 5000km journey that snaked through 11 Kenyan counties.

Prolific Bleicher navigated defending champion Kris Rosenberger of Austria in a Porsche 911 sponsored by Tuthill.

During the rally, Rosenberger hailed his co-driver saying the German is very efficient in reading road books and calling out pace-notes for him.

“We share not only the car but the bed, we try not to fight. We have one big rule; what happens in the car stays in the car, so when we go for dinner after the rally day we try not to fight about what happened in the car,” says Rosenberger.

Bleicher has encouraged Kenyan women to embrace rallying stating that being a co-driver, whether a woman or man, doesn’t matter.

“Women can do the job better, same like men. Maybe even better because they are organised, structured, don’t get into panic mode so fast and are strict with the drivers,” Bleicher said.

“To navigate efficiently, you have to be brave, you should not be afraid of speed or what can happen to you in the process. It’s a lot of fun, its truly great and rewarding,” Bleicher said.

For her to be on top of the game, Bleicher runs frequently to keep fit.

This, she says, has catapulted her motorsport career to greater heights.

She’s best remembered to have navigated Rosenberger to victory in the last edition of the EASCR held in 2019.

Some of her victories with Rosenberger in 2021 included the  Rally Sprint Mitja Illa, Rallye Vall de Sant Pere, Rallye Bunyola Orient, Rally Sprint Conservas and Rally Sprint de Santunyi which were held in Europe and the Americas.

While being navigated by her husband Tony Hughes and competing under Team Huzi, Lynda took control of their Peugeot 504 Coupe with bravery, driving it from start to the end.

Lynda finished 20th overall at her first attempt of the rally in 1981.

Her dramatic debut in the event is still remembered to date within the rally circles.

Then a very young lady, her Datsun 160J was washed off a bridge and rescued in a swollen river, dragged out and promptly fired up to carry on with the rally.

Lynda won the March Turbo campaign for Nissan in 1989.

Two years later, she took another class podium finish in the rally before retiring from active rallying to focus on her family in 1992.

Lynda and Tony occasionally come out to compete, especially during the Classic Rally, which is a motorsport event they don’t want to miss.

The pair has come close to victory on many occasions and each knows each others strengths and weaknesses well which holds them in good stead.

For the past three decades, their family has remained heavily involved in the game including their sons Mikey and Russell. Their Peugeot 504 V6 has been part of the family since 1981.