The legendary Safari Rally in Kenya returns to the World Rally Championship this weekend after an 19-year hiatus. These photos from the Girardo & Co. Archive encapsulate why the African event holds a near-celestial status for rally lovers…
From 1973 to 2002, the Safari Rally in Kenya struck equal parts awe and fear in the courageous drivers who competed there. Impossibly long special stages, stifling dust, sweltering temperatures and craggy, near-unpassable terrain, all set against a breathtaking backdrop, combine to make one of motorsport’s greatest spectacles.
Amid organizational and financial issues, the Safari Rally lost its WRC status in 2003. And tragically, the African round remained off the calendar for 19 years. But finally, on Thursday of this week, the current crop of World Rally Championship drivers started the Safari Rally and got a taster of the event’s unique challenges for the very first time.In light of the event’s return to top-flight rallying, we took to the Girardo & Co. Archive to find 10 photos which capture the magic of this epic endurance marathon held in one of the world’s most beautiful countries. We hope you enjoy looking at the images as much as we did searching for them. Oh, and Godspeed to all the drivers taking part in Africa this weekend.
Richard Burns and his co-driver Robert Reid scrabble desperately to unbeach their stricken Peugeot 206 WRC during the 2002 edition of the Safari Rally, an endeavour which would ultimately prove fruitless. We actually sold this very car earlier this year – click here to find out more about it.Click here to buy this photo from the Girardo & Co. Archive.
For many, images just like this one of Alessandro Fiorio and Luigi Pirollo’s Lancia Delta Integrale absolutely caked in mud and with its additional spotlights ablaze back in 1990 are the first things that spring to mind when they think of the Safari Rally.Click here to buy this photo from the Girardo & Co. Archive.
The Ford Motor Company’s squadron of pilots are introduced to some of the local wildlife during a rest stop on 1999’s Safari Rally. Only in Kenya!Click here to buy this photo from the Girardo & Co. Archive.
Suspension raised to frankly comical heights, additional spotlights, snorkels snaking their way up the A pillars, spare wheels on the roof and enormous bull bars – if they’re to endure the toughest terrain on the WRC calendar, rally cars require a serious makeover for the Safari Rally. Here, the Kenyan drivers Shekhar Mehta and Rob Combes demonstrate why.Click here to buy this photo from the Girardo & Co. Archive.
For us here at Girardo & Co., nothing screams Safari Rally more than a Lancia 037 Rally, spotlights ablaze, spare wheel bungee-tied to the roof and Martini livery obscured by a thick coating of dust, going hell for leather ahead of a vast trailing plume of thick dust. Just perfect.Click here to buy this photo from the Girardo & Co. Archive.
Blissful oasis’ turn into treacherous hazards on Rally Safari – here, Alessandro Fiorio and Luigi Pirollo’s Lancia Delta Integrale takes a dip during the 1990 Rally Safari.Click here to buy this photo from the Girardo & Co. Archive.
They don’t call it the Safari Rally for nothing – if drivers didn’t encounter at least one of the ‘Big Five’ by the end of the rally, we imagine they would have been bitterly disappointed. After all, they’d travelled all that way to Africa! Vic Preston and John Lyall caught this brace of elephants from their Lancia 037 Rally back in 1984.Click here to buy this photo from the Girardo & Co. Archive.
Whether you’re cruising through central Rome during the Mille Miglia or traversing remote African plains at full speed, there’s something about motorsport which excites and unites people. Here, the filthy Toyota Celica Turbo of Didier Auriol and Bernard Occelli is cheered on at a railway crossing by frenzied locals, clearly loving the fact the World Rally Championship is in town.Click here to buy this photo from the Girardo & Co. Archive.
Few drivers relished the challenge of the East African terrain like Colin McRae. The Scot won the notoriously difficult event thrice, in 1997, ’99 and 2002. He and his longstanding co-driver Nicky Grist can be seen here tackling a jagged rocky special stage on their way to victory in 1999. To say the conditions were punishing on the cars is a serious understatement. Click here to buy this photo from the Girardo & Co. Archive.
We couldn’t put this list together and not include a shot of our beloved ‘P8 WRC’, the Subaru Impreza WRC in which Colin McRae and Nicky Grist won the 1997 Safari Rally and which we’ve made Internet famous over the course of the last four years.Click here to buy this photo from the Girardo & Co. Archive.The photos in this feature are from the Girardo & Co. Archive, which is our new treasure trove of three-million motorsport images from the 1970s to the present day, all of which are available to purchase directly from the website. CLICK HERE to search the archive and buy photos online.