Some people say that has lost the world rally championship, his sense of adventure.
And when you consider it was once an event that was so full of danger – oncoming local traffic, huge hidden boulders, holes in the street that swallowed a car whole, giraffe, elephant, that the only way to compete with any degree of safety was followed all the way from a helicopter, it’s hard to argue otherwise.
You will find the helicopter to get the on WRC events nowadays, both for recording and a signal of in-car tracker, but nothing on the scale seen in the East Africa Safari Rally. The event was the last part of the WRC in 2002, when the Prodrive-run Subaru World Rally Team was at the peak. Since the group B era of the 1980s, it was already Protocol in place for the top teams of each Auto-assign its own spotter helicopter, because of the event, the huge uncontrolled phases. It was “terribly expensive,” says Paul Howarth, the Subaru team of the former Manager, “but bloody exciting.”
Howarth flew in Petter Solberg spotter chopper on four events: “During the rally, there would be the pilot, myself and a very experienced paramedic in the helicopter, because if Petter had an accident, we would be the first on the scene.
“The Safari was the only rally held on open roads, so it would be local traffic on the stage. We were there to warn the locals rally car came to the forwarding of instructions by the engineers to clear animals out of the way. You could make the most of the animals, scare away, but the donkey would just stare at. You could practically put the skids on you, and you don’t want to move.
“On some parts of the rally, the car would climb over the rocks at 20kph, so that you spent a lot of time in the hover. Then in the fast sections it had to be 500 meters, on the search for hazards.
“It was one of the most memorable experiences I’ve ever had. It was like you were actually in the rally. The wildlife was incredible.”
How important is the spotter helicopter, though? Nicky Grist, who won the event three times as Colin McRae’s co-Pilot, remembers two occasions, the highlighted importance. “During a particular test, we don’t have a helicopter,” he recalls. “We went on a plane and left, came around a corner, when all of a sudden, Christ, it was a giraffe. It runs with us, but through us at the same time. A hoof came up to the window on my side. Fortunately, was derailed at the last moment.
If you have a giraffe at these speeds, it’s sayonara.” A spotter in the helicopter would have scared the giraffe, before the car came through.
“On another occasion, in the year 1997, we have Grist in some of the mechanical problems”. “Everything went well and we were on the second place. We were 80 km from the end of a stage, and the alternator light came on.
We reported on the issue of the helicopter crew. She flew high to radio contact with the base, and they were forwarding instructions to us, ‘turn off fuel pump, turn on the’ try to save the battery to us at the end. Then they said: ‘Well, we need you. to turn the radio off If we want to speak to you, we plunge over the top of them.’ We have just made it to the end of the stage, where there was a service. The team changed the alternator and the battery, and Colin and I went on to win the Safari rally for the first time.”
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