By ERNEST NDUNDA
|Sweden’s Björn Waldegard navigated by his son Mathias during yesterday’s rally in Tanzania. The Waldegards retired from the rally. [PHOTO: ERNEST NDUNDA/STANDARD]|
It was end of the road for the defending champion Björn Waldegard as he crashed out of the Kenya Airways East African Safari Classic Rally as cars crossed back to Kenya from Arusha, Tanzania yesterday.
Waldergard’s exit is a major blow as the Tuthill Porsche driver retired from this year’s event following an incident at yesterday’s 154 kilometer Jeshini stage.
Waldegard and his navigating son Mathias had tackled 8km of the day’s opening stage when the Swedes passed over a concrete drift and rolled their Tuthill 911 one-and-a half times before the car landed on the co-driver’s side. Both father and son were unhurt but were flown to Nairobi for precautionary checks.
“It all happened very quickly,” explained Waldegard Senior following the accident. “We were going flat out over a concrete drift. We had a triple caution in the notes so I’m not sure what went wrong exactly but the back end got caught and it flipped the car.
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“Of course, it’s very disappointing — Friday was such a good day and everything was going fine and then today (yesterday) this has happened. I am feeling fine but Mathias seems to have a little concussion so the teams are flying us to a hospital in Nairobi as a precaution.”
Tuthill Porsche team owner Richard Tuthill concluded: “Obviously it’s very disappointing for Björn and Mathias but now our main priority is to ensure they are both thoroughly checked over in Nairobi.
“I’d like to thank the excellent medical team on-event. They had flown a helicopter over within minutes of the incident and have done a great job so far.”
Waldegard was placed third prior to his retirement and had clocked the fastest time on yesterday’s closing stage.
Following yesterday’s opening test, Tuthill’s Stig Blomqvist resumed his lead on the Safari Classic and was leading Ian Duncan by 31 seconds at the time the rally traffic was preparing for another energy-sapping test in the Mbulu Mountains.
Other Kenyans Onkar Rai and Baldev Chager in their Porsche 911 were lying eighth overall as at CS7 followed by David Horsey of Mombasa in ninth and Aziz Tejpar in tenth.
Today’s rallying featured four stages prior to the overnight halt in Amboseli. But the cars will first do a grueling 117km section in Tanzania running from Monduli in Arusha all the way to Longido before crossing over through Namanga border.
They then head straight to CS11 at Ndialongi-Bulls Eye (116km), then onwards to the 2km Blue Triangle section (in Athi River) which is a designated spectator stage for Nairobi residents.
The dust settles at Amboseli’s Ol Tukai Lodge. Tomorrow, Day 5, is a rest day. It’s the day mechanics have been allocated to fix the machines.
While mechanics will be busy trying to put the classic machines in good nick, drivers, team mangers and co-drivers will be taken through a rare game drive in the world-famous Amboseli National Park as part of a sports tourism initiative.