Safari still “holds a lot of appeal” despite modern changes

A win on the modern Safari is worth as much as its tougher predecessor for Toyota

Celica Safari 1990

Between 1984 and 1994, Toyota was the king of the Safari Rally. Seven wins from 11 starts for the Celica TCT, GT-4 and Turbo 4WD help carve out a quite sensational record at a time when the African event was at its toughest.

It’s widely accepted that the ‘new’ Safari that’s been postponed from this year until next is a shadow of its former self, but a Safari win would still be a Safari win according to the man in charge of making sure the contemporary Toyotas make it to the finish.

We’ve already outlined the changes Toyota could and would have made to the Yaris WRC if the Safari had run this year and, much as Tom Fowler would have relished the challenge of designing and building a bespoke Africa car like his colleagues from 30 years ago, times have changed. But he still wants the win.

Fowler said: “The Safari name holds a lot of appeal and to win the current on, you have to put things into context.

“I don’t think it would be good to go back to the old Safari in terms of how rough it was, the cars just haven’t been designed for that recently.

“With those kind of rallies not being in the championship to suddenly drop one in and go to a really old style, super-rough Safari… it wouldn’t give anything to anybody to see cars getting broken.

“I think it’s a good way to bring back the name of Safari and the region and continent of Africa into the championship but without, let’s say, taking it too far and making a mess.”

Words:David Evans