|Australasian Safari: Impressive 500kms SS02, changes in top10, retirements.|
There's a time to say, the "South American Dakar" is difficult. But who is well informed especially in the smaller or amateur-rallies knows, the "new" Dakar is sometimes like "driving on a highway" compared to many other rallies.
What is making the "Dakar" especially difficult are the every day´s longer liaisons - they take the concentration of the competitors and make them beeing tired even before the start of the real stages - or reaching the camp after the SS´s.
Not so in Australia. Less liaisons, but more timed kilometers in real and changing offroad tracks. The "Australasian Safari Rally" in 2012 is scored for the "Dakar Series" - and who will made it in the "Down Under"-race, will have the best preparation to be stable also in South America.
And something else is different: Who thought, with money and a highly-experienced car you can easily win here - we would answer like a well known comment of the famous TV-series "The Simpsons": "Haa-Haa"!
The main theme: There´s no "fast assistance" here, all competitors have the same chances. If you have a problem and you can fix it yourself, you´re welcome to finish the stage. But if you eventually have a bigger problem or no spare-parts, then the face of the rally can change immediately to you...
Your service-crews are waiting on specially marked service-points, which could be far, far away...so in the worst case, you have to wait for hours - and then the day is over...
This happened to the Venezuela-crew of Coffaro / Meneses. With maybe one of the best cars in the rally - a Overdrive Toyota Hilux Pickup - they got stuck on SS02 on Monday after destroying parts of the front suspension, waiting for the service crew for hours and beeing towed out of the stage. After solving the problem, they are still in the race, but the chance to reach the podium is very poor now...
It was a long day for the competitors, service-crews, organisation and also the press. Stage 2 started in Kalbarri at the western coast of Australia, heading north to the city of Carnarvon. Tough 490 kms in racing and additionally 60 km liaision, splitted in two stages with 230 and 260 km - in the middle the service-park was based in the small village Hamelin.
The stage was fast, very fast. In the beginning a bit tricky in silted mountains, then through the dunes along the beach, later the landscape changed: Incredible wide open spaces, pure hot desert, just a little camel grass - it looked like some stages in the Mexican- or US-based Bajas.
With the upcoming sun, the heat was over the savannah, light wind and a lot of dust, which did not make it easier. With full throttle, the participants drove on the tracks before it becomes bit more green again.
Many competitors didn´t reached the end of the stage - and the overall Top 10 in the evening held some surprises. "The latest will be the first" you can say... A total of 9 competitors didn´t saw the finish line, including a T2 Toyota pickup, the Ford Protruck, the Polaris Side-by-side, some Nissan Patrol and Mitsubishi Pajero.
So it was the day especially for the slower T2 production-cars - some of them reached the overall top 10 between the 100K-Dollar cars, and even the mostly-serial Volkswagen Amarok and the incredible 2-wheel-drive Datsun 260Z sportscar old-timer reached the finish in Carnarvon.
It has also caught Isuzu factory driver Bruce Garland. "Damn, I´m angry with myself" the "Dakar-Legend" Garland said after the stage. "I´m always the guy who said, keep slower, keep stable and later take the chance to attack. But after I catched the Overdrive Toyota with my all-new Diesel-D-Max, I made the mistake and didn´t care so much as I should..." Garland hitted something hard, ripped the rear axle out including complete suspension. "I didn´t make a stupid mistake like this in the past 20 years."
The crux of the matter: Garland has to ship his car in the end of the week to South America (via France), damages are therefore simply inappropriate. Big damages were not, what they expected. As result, the Tuesday´s camp of Garland and his Isuzu-Team looks like a prototype-workshop, welding machines, axles, spare parts everywhere in the green grass of the Carnarvon-camp.
Because it´s a prototype it´s not easy changing of some spare-parts. They have to construct them by themselves. So big pieces of metal were cutted, welded, installed - and this not for only the next stage, this work must be 100 % stable for the Dakar-Rally. "We simply have no time anymore. So we use the day to fix the car carefully - and precisely" Garland said.
But not all of the "probably-winning-teams" take it carefully...no, they drove if there will be "no tomorrow". In the front of the competitors, the Mitsubishi-"Coconut" crew of Geoff Olholm put the pedal to the metal and had a hard some-seconds-fight with the orange Holden Pickup of Hederics / Weel - after 400 km both cars were only 2 minutes from each other.
Laughing third was the Mitsubishi Triton crew of Purshouse / Doble and also the Isuzu Pickup of Di Lallo / Masi, who kept the speed and profited of the retirements or problems of the fastest Nissan Patrol cars, who were in front before.
But the "Hero of the Day" is - surprise: The T2 Subaru Forester "City Car" SUV, driven by the Australian crew Herridge / Hill. A perfect ride, a perfect equipped rallycar and the power of the "blubbering" boxer-engine made them driving fast and stable - and in the end, they reached the fourth (!) position between the V8-Prototypes.
We remember: Last year they came with no experience with the Subaru, fought even to stay in the race and after they damaged the rally-suspension, the drove with the total serial suspension of the wife´s private car - and finished with a class-win. Respect, guys.
Tomorrow will see competitors tackling three stages and 410 km of what is tipped to be the most spectacular stage of the event in one of Western Australia's most extraordinary locations, taking competitors through a number of stations including coastal Quobba and Gnaraloo Stations and to the tip of the Ningaloo Reef where there will be river crossings, stunning beach runs, sand dunes and twisting station tracks.
"There will be some nice dunes, which give the competitors the feeling of some Dakar-stages" says organizer Justin Hunt, who is happy with the actually running rally. He has good reasons to be happy: The routes, the organization, the catering - all is in top quality, well organized, with the special "familiar"-style which is missed on so many rallies.
But for Hunt, something different also counts and gives him a smile: "The competitors told me, that they are very happy with the road books this year. This was and is especially important for me!"
2012/09/25 | 07:48 CET | ARTICLE: MR / HS