|Australasian Safari: Competitors tackle beach and bush on SS 01 to Kalbarri.|
It was an action packed start to Australasian Safari 2012 with last year’s winner and Dakar Challenge favourite Todd Smith (GHR Honda) out of contention to win after breaking a crank shaft in Leg 1 from Geraldton to Kalbarri in Western Australia. He is expected to start tomorrow but with a significant time penalty of approx. 12 hours.
Brother Jake Smith had better luck. "The beach was cool and I managed to keep away from the water," Jake said about the first stage on Coronation Beach. Finishing just 40 seconds after Jake, Warren Strange literally hit the waves. "I got too close to the waterline and had a wave wash over me but the rest of the Leg was uneventful and the bike continued to perform well."
In the Autos, John Hederics and co-driver Kees Weel in the Holden Colorado topped the leaderboard with Geoff Olholm and co-driver Gordon Trigg (Mitsubishi Pajero V8) just 13 seconds behind and the Venezuelan team of Nunzio Coffaro and Daniel Meneses (Overdrive Toyota Hilux) who are one minute 62 seconds behind the leaders.
Hederics said the final stage was tough. They got through the beach and managed to get back in the lead by the end of the day. "On the beach there wasn’t a lot to gain but there was a lot to lose so we took it pretty easy. Stage 3 was rough and challenging and we were passed by car 102 - they were flying - but we passed them again on Stage 3 when they got a flat tyre."
Geoff Olholm said the day was tough but tempered with the scenery. "The beach was beautiful but tough, in fact the whole day was. Stage 2 was really exciting with lots of sandy dunes and navigating was hard on Stage Three. We just had to get through it and keep the car safe."
Bruce Garland (Isuzu D-Max Turbodiesel) was really happy with the day. "Today was fantastic. I loved the scenery, particularly the beach. Stage 2 was a bit tougher - we had a hose come off the turbo so we lost a bit of power but Stage three was great for us, despite getting caught in Kerry Turley’s dust."
The Venezuelean Coffaro said, the Australasian Safari was a real a cross country rally and the team was adapting as they go. "There are so many trees on the course. We saw yesterday some of the other teams had windscreen protectors so we built one last night and I think it has saved us 100 times over today. We had three punctures on Stage 3 and were only carrying two spares so we had to enter the final time control with a flat tyre. We’re loving the car."
The Dakar Challenge has been opened up with Russell Scoble also having mechanical issues in Stage 2. The fastest Dakar Challenge finisher at the end of Leg 1 was West Australian Vern Strange who is back racing in Australasian Safari after a four-year break. South African rider Brett Cummings is next in line, just two minutes behind.
Dakar Challenge rider Alex van Ginkel from the Netherlands is enjoying the journey so far. "I loved the beach, it was very much like riding at home. My bike has made no mistakes and the roadbook is good," he said.
The Safari spirit is already showing on the first day. West Australians Dave McShane and Bill Hayes in the Ford F150 Protruck stayed in the competition after breaking the rocker at the top of their engine yesterday.
They had parts brought from Perth from a past Safari competitor to Jurien Bay, half way to Geraldton, where they were met by Dave’s wife Larissa, who drove them almost 200km to the bivouac arriving at 3am. The service crew worked until 6am to get the car ready to start the competition today.
Leading the Quads is first-time Safari competitor Darren Bushby, followed by Safari veteran Paul Smith.
2012/09/23 | 15:50 CET | ARTICLE: MR/HS/PITTAWAY