|Australasian Safari: Holden and Subaru leader after SS04 Gascoyne Junction.|
Stage 04 of the "Australasian Safari" Rally 2012 brought the competitors more east from the coastal City Carnarvon to Gascoyne Junction, a city, no, a village, no, let us say a small "kind of Oasis" in the hot desert of Western Australia.
Some houses, a small shop, a school and a big ground for the rallycamp - as small, that the asphalt road ends here and becomes a sand-pist. The citizens got the rally a warm welcome - not miners as we thought, here agriculture is the main business. Simply you can say, the Safari crew has increased the village´s population by 500 percent.
The course comprised remote countryside along the Gascoyne River, around the Kennedy Ranges, over dry creeks, claypans and fence lines. The leg was splitted in two stages, first with 155 km timed section, second with 132 kms. When the sun came out, the heat becomes to climb up to more then 30 degrees, not easy for the competitors, especially in the cars.
And again we saw a great racing day, with many surprises, a stable leading Holden Colorado and again the small Subaru Forester stable in the second overall position.
Both take down the speed a little, giving Geoff Olholm (Mitsubishi Pajero) and Nunzio Coffaro (Toyota Hilux) the stagewin - but Olholm and Coffaro are fare away from the podium after they damaged their cars in SS02 / SS03 and got some heavy penalties because not finishing the stage.
John Hederics in the Holden Colorado held his overall lead in the cars, with 15:53:28 hours now 33 minutes, with navigator Kees Weel, with Production Class entry Rob Herridge and Sam Hill in the Subaru Forester in pursuit (16:26:22). The Nissan-crew Owen/Cairns hold the third position with 17:55:42, followed by Park/Newbon (Toyota Hilux, 18:07:48) and Young / McBean (Mitsubishi Pajero, 19:04:43).
Hederics said the second stage was really rough and rocky but the car was holding up well. "We're trying to consolidate now and took it easy, we were happy to let other cars go past us. We're glad to be back."
Nunzio Coffaro from Venezuela said it was like a movie finale: "There were three cars racing - the Holden (Hederics), The Isuzu (Di Lallo) and the Hilux (Coffaro). But we got a puncture during this time and we changed the tyre and caught up, then the Isuzu got a puncture. We will use different tires tomorrow."
Subaru-rider Rob Herridge, very experienced in WRC-rallying, said they had a rough day on the course. "We decided to take it easy today so we wouldn't make any mistakes with the navigation, but we still got lost. When we found our way again we got caught in someone else's dust, the frustration set in then we got a puncture but we made up time in the last stage to finish on a high."
Rachan Trairat and Peerapong Sombutwong in an 2012 Isuzu D-Max T2 had a dramatic day with a rollover in the first stage. In a narrow curve the driver was oversteering, hit a small humb with the rear tire and rolled slowly. But they were not hurt and the mechanics are working to get the car back on track on Thursday.
Bruce Garland and Harry Suzuki started again with their fixed Isuzu D-Max, but used the stage for testing the car for the upcoming Dakar Rally. They tried different suspension settings, but as they said, it will be the last day in this year´s Safari Rally, because they won´t damage the car before transporting it to South America in the end of next week.
In the bikes, the competition saw Jake Smith (Honda CRF450) increase his lead, and Warren Strange - also on Honda - moving into second position after Yamaha rider Rod Faggotter was out of Stage 9 with wheel bearing failure. Vern Strange moved into fourth and continues to lead the Dakar Challenge competition.
"I had a good day" said Jake Smith. "The tracks were really technical, it certainly wasn't easy. It was pretty cool when you dropped down into the range - the scenery was pretty nice."
Warren Strange said he took the conservative approach today with the interesting track. "The track was a challenge, I went sideways during the second stage, hit a rock and fell off but am not hurt. I rode conservatively today to maintain my position, to preserve the tyres and the motor."
Dutch KTM-rider Alex van Ginkel pushed again and finished 6th, climbed now the 8th position in the overall rankings. His teammate Simon Schimmel said he had the best day on the event so far. "I want the GPS coordinates for all these beautiful viewing spots - I want to come back to all these places with my wife. It is like Apache land, they should shoot movies here!"
Italy´s Manuel Lucchese had a bad day again: Starting early within the first 10 bikers, he damaged the brakes of his Husaberg bike and had to ride some douzend kms withour working brakes. "It was horrible" he sais in the evening. "Every day something new happens. My first goal was to climb the podium, the I wanted to finish in the Top 10. But my budget is small so I cannot push like the leading bikers - and again the luck is not with me."
Quad leader Paul Smith said he had an awesome day. "I loved it. I got lost half way through the last stage, it was really technical but that's the sort of riding I like - it's keeping me on my toes. I saw two emus today and the scenery is just beautiful - I'm getting the full fauna experience."
Thursdsay's course continues in the region with a 147 km stage to start the day circumnavigating the huge pastoral station Bidgemia. Competitors will face a rough overgrown run and flood damaged river plains with many sandy creeks and river crossings.
The huge 301km second stage follows a disused road including a stony floodway, fence lines, and hidden rocks. A highlight will be crossing the Gascoyne River finishing with fast flowing rally roads.
2012/09/25 | 08:36 CET | ARTICLE: MR/HS/PITTAWAY