|Australasian Safari: Leaders stable after Stage 5 - but hard car-battles.|
The 5th stage of the Australasian Safari was tough - really tough. Hard and fast roads, extremely dusty, covered with many jumps and small tree-stumps which were hard to see in the dust. The Chinese cars 'found' this stumps... but more later.
The top three positions held yesterday by the Australian teams Lowndes (Holden), Green (Nissan) and Garland (Isuzu) remain intact after today´s 411 kilometers Leg.
But first bad news for the Fans of the Chinese "Chang Feng" Mitsubishi Pajeros, built in licence in "The land of smile". Both cars retired today. Both (!) cars hit a tree-stump on different places. One car was only damaged, in the second car the driver was injured in the lower back.
Lowndes and Weel in their orange-red Holden Colorado retained their first place position, and were on track to build their lead until they hit a stump on the first stage with 50 km still to go. "We bent the left hand rear suspension and survived that and the boys did a great job fixing it in the service. We were well set up for the second stage but we had an exhaust leak," Lowndes said.
"It was a tough day in all. There were a lot of first gear corners, and a lot of different terrain. We had to pass a few bikes and that´s a hazard in itself. We were in their dust and looking for instructions and hazards and then there´s the bikes coming out of the dust - they can catch you out. My plan is to try to maintain the gap tomorrow which will set us up for Saturday, which should be a shorter day, a kind of celebration."
Darren Green and Wayne Smith retained their second fastest position, despite their Nissan Patrol also encountering a tree. "The first stage was really overgrown. We sideswiped a tree from front to back on the left side. The back passenger door was flapping around for about 10 km before we noticed and got out to shut it," said co-driver Wayne Smith.
"In part of the second stage there was regrowth the height of the car. We missed a corner and got lost instantly. I had to get out of the car and run around in the dust to find the track. Those were the only two times that we had to get out of the car. We´re going to change the radiator overnight but other than that there is nothing we need to do to the car. We enjoyed the scenery. When we came around the edge of the lake we wished we could stop and have a cup of tea and enjoy it!"
Five-time Safari-Winner and Dakar-veteran Bruce Garland and Harry Suzuki had an early challenge on their hands when a drive shaft snapped early in the first stage and they were forced to make a repair on the run, but they managed to hang on to third fastest position.
"I just took the whole thing out and continued another 200 km using 2WD" said Garland. "We also had three punctures. "But we were back by the second stage and will be coming out strong tomorrow."
The 'Cairns Coconut Racing' Crew of Geoff Olholm and John Doble with their Mitsubishi Pajero V60 including a V8-engine had a huge day, claiming second fastest time in the second stage but also found driving through the young trees in Special Stage 12 a huge challenge. They have no chances for the podium now, because the used the Wedenesday for repairings and didn´t drive. But they are back in the race, this is, what counts.
"We got a bit bushwhacked with the saplings in the regrowth area. It was like being in a cornfield. We were driving through it and it rebounded and we couldn´t see where we´d been. We also caught Bruce´s dust. I don´t know what we hit, but the navigator´s passenger door was flapping around. We had to cable tie it shut," co-driver Doble said.
Tomorrow is the penultimate day of Safari 2010 and competitors will ride south to the beautiful coastal town of Esperance, with sand dunes likely to be prominent as the event moves closer to the Southern Ocean.
Considered one of the world´s great endurance events, the Australasian Safari is travelling from Southern Cross in the wheatbelt through to the historic Western Australian goldfields, desert, rugged bush and coastal sand dunes.
2010/09/23 | 15:24 CET | EDITOR: MR/HS/PITTAWAY