The Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy team contesting this year’s East African Classic Safari Rally are celebrating the “craziness “ of the East African Classic Safari after reaching the finish of the gruelling ten-day event on Monday.
Sharing a Tuthill Porsche 911, the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy founder and patron John Coyne and the Academy’s Josh McErlean set off from Mombasa on December 9.
By Monday this week, McErlean had covered nearly 2,100 km of competitive sections by the finish in Nairobi.
Unfortunately for Coyne, an illness during the opening week forced him to withdraw from the event but Rally Academy co-driver Eoin Treacy was on hand to step into the co-driver’s seat to allow the Motorsport Ireland liveried Porsche to finish the legendary event.
Treacy had to cope with event rules including route details being kept secret until the night before each leg start and route amendments being dropped in the car’s window – night navigation trial style – minutes before each day’s departure.
Along the way, the three Motorsport Ireland men suffered all sorts of trial and tribulation, from broken steering racks and gearboxes to setting the fastest time on both the opening prologue test and other fastest times through the week including the final stage into Nairobi on Monday.
They encountered flash floods, the wild animals that the Safari rally is famous for and the country’s equally famous helpful locals.
Their team of Tuthill Porsche mechanics worked around the clock throughout the event’s ten-day duration to keep the Irish team in the rally.
They finished a creditable 26th overall despite the event’s best efforts to force them onto the ever-growing retirement list.
“We made the end of this exciting adventure,” said McErlean at the finish on Monday.
“It has been very crazy. Nothing like I've ever done before. I don't know how to describe it - the craziness from the open roads to the pacenotes [via Tulip diagrams] it was it was pretty crazy. We have enjoyed ourselves.
“We had our fair share of ups and downs but we came through it and we kept on going. It was great to win the prologue and final stage of the rally.”
His stand on co-driver Treacy was in awe of the experience after being surprisingly drafted into the passenger seat following John's illness.
“It was absolutely mental. Fair play to Josh, some serious difficult stuff through all of them stages,” he said.
“We got through it all and we had our issues along the way but it was an unbelievable experience.”
Motorsport Ireland licence holder Gary McElhinney was the best of the Irish competitors in Kenya. The Donegal-based co-driver guided Briton Andrew Siddall to seventh overall in a Datsun 240Z.
13.12.23 Here is a provious article from during the event
Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy’s Classic Safari Rally team-update ahead of rest day in Nairobi
The Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy team contesting this year’s East African Classic Safari Rally in Kenya heads into Friday’s rest day after nearly a week of high adventure.
The East African Safari will run until December 18 and will cover 2,100 km of competitive sections on classic Kenyan roads between Nairobi and Mombasa.
The rally got underway on Saturday last and Academy founder and patron John Coyne and Academy’s driver Josh McErlean set the fastest time on the event opening prologue stage.
Sharing a Tuthill Porsche 911 Coyne and Academy McErlean are set second fastest on the opening 120km competitive section from Sokoke to Samburu but were forced to change a gearbox and steering arm before the second test.
Stage two was very fast and flowing and their also Porsche 911 suffered two rear punctures – attributed to the heat.
Stage three was quite a rough stage and early on in the stage an impact occurred and fractured the steering rack, after limping for a while they pulled in and repaired the offending part which allowed them to continue further.
“Unfortunately it failed completely later in the stage and they did all they could but had to wait for mechanics to come in with a spare,” said their backup chief and Rally Academy co-driver Eoin Treacy.
By Monday they had dropped to 43rd position. However, on Wednesday John was feeling under the weather and was too ill to continue in the event.
Under rally rules, the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy team were able to nominate the replacement of one crew member to allow them to continue in the event.
This promoted McErlean to full-time driver and Tracey took over the co-driving role – a remarkable first for the Academy as it now had two up-and-coming talents contesting the legendary bi-annual event.
“We had a good day. The stages were quite fast. We set a good time on the first one after settling into it,” explained Cork-based co-driver Treacy.
“In the second stage we were stopped twice with issues but still happy with the pace.
"On the third stage again we stopped once in the stage. Overall a good day.”
Those issues included fuel starvation problems and on Thursday they lost over an hour after being caught in a heavy rain shower and getting stuck in a river crossing.
Nevertheless, the crew reached the overnight rest halt near Nairobi in 36th position overall.
The well-earned rest day will give them time to prepare for the final nine stages before the event’s conclusion on Monday.
Text by Sean Moriarty
Read another article about this story over on the ERC website by clicking here