Drivers taking part in this year's Safari Rally in Kenya have been completing their final preparations before beginning the 3,125 mile (5,000 kilometres) event on Thursday (23 March).
SV Cars line up for scrutiny (4 shots)
SCU Mechanic checks wires in engine and other examiners look at cars (4 shots)
GV Car No. 3 tested on water-covered mud path (3 shots)
GV Car No. 4 being tested on flooded road (2 shots)
GV Car drives along dusty track watched by Africans in traditional dress (4 shots)
SPORT: RALLY DRIVING
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Background: Drivers taking part in this year's Safari Rally in Kenya have been completing their final preparations before beginning the 3,125 mile (5,000 kilometres) event on Thursday (23 March).
SYNOPSIS: All the cars have to undergo detailed scrutiny before beginning the first leg, more than 1,000 miles around south-west Kenya. This year, the 26th anniversary of the rally, 75 cars are competing.
The organisers have plotted the rally to allow for an average speed of 69 miles (110.4 kilometres) an hour. On paper, the event is meant to last five days, but one driver said his team found it difficult to cover the course in twice that time.
The drivers say rain and mud will be their biggest problems during the first part of this year's rally, The weather has been so bad that serious flooding is expected over many parts of the first leg. This is just practice..... the real thing could be much worse. Last year 68 cars started, but only 12 made it to the finish.
Because of the flooding, several diversion routes have been chosen, but the race will inevitably become a tussle among factory teams; private entries cannot afford the more sophisticated back-up service available to works teams. This shortcoming applies to many of the eleven African teams competing. They have already said that lack of sponsorship is a serve handicap.
Observers expect there will be a fierce contest among teams entered by Peugeot, Datsun, Porsche, and Mercedes. Last year, two Swedish drivers won the event in an English Ford. This time, they are heading the West German Porsche team. Dry, dusty roads are more commonly associated with the route through Kenya. But, two years ago, sudden flooding removed half the field on the first night. Whatever the conditions, the route ahead is going to be gruelling for all the drivers.