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THE SAFARI GOES INTERNATIONAL - 1957

The 1957 event, the first to have International status, was a good year for the VW crews, now back in class "A" (up to £600). It was a very wet and muddy year, the sort of conditions that the Beetles revelled in. 64 starters left Nairobi on the 19th April and so bad were the conditions that by the time the crews reached the half way stage back in Nairobi, only 25 cars were left running. However, 6 of the Beetles were still penalty free - although most of them had been caught in a Tanganyikan police speed trap. The penalty for this was finally dropped after much protesting by the organisers.

The Beetles had been fitted with a "Secret Weapon" to combat the mud - this was in the form of foot rests fitted to the rear bumper mounts and grab handles mounted by the air intake grill.

The second half of the event ground to a halt when an ambulance got stuck on a steep hill 60 miles from Suam Bridge. The first few cars got past the stuck ambulance, then cars got stuck and the whole event ground to a halt - some crews were still stuck the next day!

The VWs ability to find traction where other cars couldn't, combined with the "Secret Weapon", meant that most of the Beetles had come through what went down in Safari mythology as Ambulance Hill without losing too much time.

The results showed a win for "Gust" Hofmann and Arthur Burton in their Beetle, with Beetles taking the first 5 places in their class. 64 cars started and only 19 cars got to the finish, of which 6 were VWs. This enabled them to take the Team Prize as well. One pointer to the future was a certain Mr T T Fjastad, who finished 4th in Class. Arthur Burton later took over as Clerk of the Course for the Rally and was to guide the event through some of its most famous times.

RESULTS:

Overall

Position Drivers Car Penalties
1st A A Hofmann & A A N Burton 1192cc VW 270 points

Class A

Position Drivers Car Penalties
1st A A Hofmann & A A N Burton 1192cc VW 270 points
2nd J P Townsend & D L Shepherd 1192cc VW 510 points
3rd J W Cardwell & N J Thomas 1192cc VW 550 points
4th T T Fjastad & P A Brochner 1192cc VW 830 points
5th W A Fritschy & J F M Jeeves 1192cc VW 990 points
7th N Rugnath & Y D Sitar & R Anjani 1192cc VW 3100 points

1958 to 1962

1958 was another average year for the Volkswagens. Whilst they didn't win their class, the reliability of the cars meant that they again won the team prize and took 2nd to 5th in class positions. One interesting entry was the Karmann Ghia of K.W.Wigens / D.N.Breed - this was running in the "lion" class for cars over £850.

The Beetles ran in the "Impala" class for cars priced up to £650. The "Impala" class had to average the same speed as all the other classes, no overall winner was declared.

1959 was a disastrous year for Volkswagen by the previous standards. The best that could be achieved was 9th Overall and 2nd in class by R M Patel & Joginder Singh.

The 1960's brought the event greater status as part of the World Rally Championship and, of course, the influx of the works teams.

There was at that time a belief, that grew into folklore, that any driver who did not live in Africa would never win the Safari. The works teams were out to disprove this myth.

1960 saw Jodinger repeat his previous year's 9th overall, but an added bonus was winning Class "C" for cars of 1001 to 1300cc- the rule about the cash price of the cars had been changed to fall in with the event's International status. Only one other Volkswagen finished, driven by South African-based VW service manager Harry Bausch. He finished 25th out of the 25 finishers.

In 1961 only three VWs finished the event, the best result was Joginder & Jaswant Singh, who finished in 19th place. The reasons why are explained in the next section. John Manussis won with a three-man crew the only time this happened in Safari history - he was driving a Mercedes-Benz 220SE.

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© Ken Green