Flying and rallying work. They just do. Alitalia Lancia Stratos anybody? More recently, Japan Airlines’ more discreet badgework aside the world championship-winning Toyota Yaris WRC.
Let’s not forget TAP – Portugal’s national carrier, which backed its World Rally Championship round and, therefore, adorned the flanks of rally cars for a generation.
And then there’s Ford. No, we’re not talking about Tuesday’s announcement of an M-Sport tie-in with Kenya Airways (we’ll get to that), we’re thinking back four-and-a-half decades to a different type of Ford.
Just as Gus Greensmith’s Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid is very much at the cutting edge of World Rally Championship tech this season, so was the Ford Escort RS1800 Björn Waldegård would run in the 1977 RAC Rally. The relevance? Big Björn’s #5 Boreham-built car was resplendent in the livery of another airline: British Airways.
And Waldegård did BA proud, taking the lead halfway through Wales and remaining out front for the 55 stages to win by two minutes from Hannu Mikkola’s Toyota.
Malcolm Wilson’s squad could take a similar result in Naivasha this week and the Kenya Airlines deal may just give them the extra edge. Working with the Nairobi-based firm has allowed M-Sport to fly its quartet of factory-liveried Pumas (don’t forget, there are actually five cars including the privately-run example of Jourdan Serderidis) as late as possible – giving more preparation time in the factory.
M-Sport team principal Richard Millener said: “I had to miss Kenya last year, so I am really looking forward to travelling there this year and it is a point of pride for the team to be travelling with Kenya’s flagship airline. Our partnership with Kenya Airways is a great opportunity for M-Sport to be associated with a national carrier that can support us with our logistical needs for such a demanding event.
“We know from last year that the fans in Kenya are very passionate and excited about WRC, so we see it as a huge honour to bear the Kenyan flag on the Puma Hybrid Rally1 and celebrate this enthusiasm with the nation.”
Kenya Airlines’s chief executive officer Allan Kilavuka was similarly pleased with the agreement, adding: “It gives us great honour to be M-Sport Ford’s trusted logistical partner.
“Over the years, we have invested in upskilling our talent and diversifying our cargo portfolio to meet market demands that exemplify our competency, credibility and capacity as Africa’s partner for socio-economic growth.
“Last year’s Safari Rally ended a 20-year wait for the WRC’s return to one of its magical locations. Kenya Airways is committed to scaling this nostalgic experience for everyone across the globe this year.”