DirtFish’s secret co-driver: Unwelcome Safari surprises

The old Safari Rally's reputation was warranted, evidenced by one awkward incident for our anonymous columnist

The Secret Co-Driver

The Safari is a special name. A special rally. When I was competing, you wanted a win on this one, Monte Carlo, 1000 Lakes and RAC. But if you wanted the RAC, you wanted it before 1990, when we still had to use the maps; it was a blind rally without pace notes.

I’ve read lots on DirtFish about people talking as if this year was the return of the Safari Rally. We should be clear, what was coming this week was a World Rally Championship event in Kenya. It wasn’t the Safari Rally.

Some of the right roads were going to be used, true, but doing one lap of Circuit de la Sarthe is not the same as competing at Le Mans for 24 hours.

I am happy to see the WRC back in Africa, but a few lions and giraffes hiding in the bushes as the cars go past does not make this the same rally I competed on. I am sorry for the organizers; I’m sure they want to make the real one again.

OK, enough about that. The memory of Safari makes me smile, but when I was competing on it, I hated it.

It was so uncomfortable. It was hot, bumpy and smelly. I remember being in the car for the whole day, you would come out and your back and ass would be so sore. And you had to be ready for something crazy happening all the time.

One of the biggest changes for this year was the length of the sections. When we were competing, we would go for hundreds of miles at full speed. With the dust always coming in the car and the sun always shining so bright and hot, it made your mouth so dry. Sometimes it was tough to speak. We had to drink water – but remember, we could be in the car for hours.

When you needed a bathroom break, you had to make a choice. Do it in the seat or don’t. I couldn’t. When I was just finishing my career, some of the teams were making this kind of device which went from… how to say? It went from our trousers area into a bottle with a tube. This meant you could take a pee in the seat. So many times this went wrong and made a big mess.

In the really long sections, we would stop for fuel and sometimes have some work done to the car from the helicopter – I would try to wait for these moments and relieve myself then.

Kenneth Eriksson - Toyota Celica ST165 - 1991 WRC Safari Rally

Photo: McKlein Image Database

I remember one time when we came to a river crossing. My driver wasn’t sure where to pass. I told him I would jump out and take a look from up on a hill. I ran up the hill to look down on the river, but the best way was for the car to come up through the bushes and over the hill. I waved to my driver to do this, to tell him to drive where I was standing.

I knew it would take a minute for the car to come around all the bushes, so I decided I would take a quick bathroom break while In waited.

I had just started to pee when the car arrived next to me. My driver had come through the bushes and was now waiting for me.

What to do? I said to myself: “OK, I’ll make one big pee and get back to the car.” I gave it a good push and something went wrong.

I understand DirtFish is a family-friendly website, so I won’t go into details here. But this did mean I was forced to make another decision about what to do in this very bad situation. My driver was starting to go crazy, shouting to get in the car.

So I had to do that.

By the end of the section and another couple of hours in the hot car, that bad situation was really bad.

Few drivers ended up smelling like roses after a tough Safari Rally. In my case, this was quite literal.