When you have skill, it’s important to use it. And that’s just what three-time European rally champion Sobieslaw Zasada is doing with this weekend’s Safari Rally. He’s taking home the distinction of being the oldest ever competitor in the World Rally Championship at age 91.
This marks Zasada’s first WRC outing in just under two decades. He’ll be competing behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta Rally3 car managed by M-Sport Poland. And he’ll also be breaking the record of oldest-ever WRC competitor, snatching that distinction from Norwegian racer Leif Vold-Johansen whose 1994 Rally Monte-Carlo race at age 82 kept him holding that particular record for years.
If anyone can eclipse the record, though, it’s Zasada. He’s competed in the Safari Rally eight different times with a best-ever finish of second in 1972. Back then, competitors drove flat-out over roads still open to public traffic. Safety standards today have turned the event into less of a flat-out endurance feature and more of a series of sprint races. According to Zasada, that’s part of why he wants to come back.
“I’ve always found the Safari to be a fantastic rally,” he said, as reported by Autosport. “I’m going back because I’m very curious to see what this rally looks like in its present form. It’s about the challenge.”
In his last outing at the Safari Rally, Zasada finished 12th with his wife Ewa as a co-driver of their Mitsubishi Lancer (an impressive feat, considering I’d hate to 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’s no doubt he’ll kick some ass.
This year, the rally consists of 18 stages spread out over four days. Thursday’s superspecial takes place in Nairobi. After that, the action moves to the Great Rift Valley and Lake Navaisha. The cars heading to Kenya will be toughened up to be able to take on both the super-fast stretches of road that will be punctuated by rough, rocky sections. It’s as much a challenge of speed as it is of discipline. But if anyone can master the diverse skills needed to take it on, it’ll be Zasada.