Ever wonder about the history of rally racing? Rally didn’t start with the first Dakar in 1979. Euro rally racing was around long before that, and even desert racing had been around for decades, at that point.
Take this video footage of the 1969 Safari Rally, then known as the East African Safari Rally (which seems to have been put together as some sort of Ford marketing material, decades ago).
At that point, the event had been around since 1953. It wasn’t the dune-bashing affair that Dakar is now, but then, even the Dakar itself was a much different race in its earlier years.
While the Dakar has had motorcycles around since Day One, the Safari Rally was focused on cars—no bikes in this footage, alas! Compare this ’60s footage to today, though, and you’ll see the cars they raced were considerably different. These were production-based machines, beefed up to handle bad roads. They weren’t the race-bred monstrosities that the teams race now. The Safari was also dominated by African drivers in its early years, unlike current rally and rally raid events, which tend to be dominated by international stars.
It shows the difference that decades of technology has made; now, with long-travel suspension, more powerful motors, and lighter cars, racers are able to tackle obstacles and terrain that their counterparts in the swingin’ 60s could only dream of.
At the end of the day, though, it all comes down to the same thing: Getting the most out of your vehicle, without running into anything. And by the looks of this clip, there were plenty of obstacles to run into in 1969, just like the rally courses of today …