When you have skills, it is important to use them. And that’s exactly what triple European rally champion Sobieslaw Zasada is doing with this weekend’s Safari Rally. He won the distinction of being the oldest competitor in the history of the World Rally Championship at the age of 91.
This is Zasada’s first WRC outing in just under two decades. He will compete behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta Rally3 car managed by M-Sport Poland. And he will also break the record for the oldest competitor in the WRC, snatching this distinction from the Norwegian driver Leif Vold-Johansen whose race of the Rallye Monte-Carlo 1994 at 82 has allowed him to keep this record for years.
If anyone can outshine the record, it’s Zasada. He took part in the Safari Rally eight times with a best runner-up to date in 1972. At the time, competitors were racing hard on roads still open to public traffic. Today’s safety standards have turned the event into an endurance race less than a series of sprint races. According to Zasada, that’s part of why he wants to come back.
“I have always found the Safari to be a fantastic rally,” he said, as reported Sports car. “I’m going back because I’m very curious to see what this rally looks like in its current form. This is the challenge.
On his last Safari Rally outing, Zasada finished 12th with his wife Ewa as co-driver of their Mitsubishi Lancer (an impressive achievement, considering I would hate to do a rally with my husband). His goals for this weekend are simple: he wants to reach the finish line, whatever it takes to get there. He may not be able to draw on his years of experience for the format, but there is no doubt that he will kick ass.
This year, the rally consists of 18 stages spread over four days. Thursday’s superspecial takes place in Nairobi. After that, the action moves to the Great Rift Valley and Lake Navaisha. Cars to Kenya will be toughened up to tackle the two super-fast stretches of road that will be punctuated by rugged and rocky sections. It’s as much a challenge of speed as it is of discipline. But if anyone can master the various skills needed to take it on, it will be Zasada.