|Australasian Safari: Prologue-start Geraldton - Olholm / Strange first leaders.|
Historic Glengarry Homestead east of the City of Geraldton at the western coast of Australia played host to Friday’s "Australasian Safari" Rally prologue which saw experienced Western Australian rider Warren Strange (Honda), Cairns driver Geoff Olholm (Mitsubishi Pajero) and Victorian Quad rider Paul Smith (Honda) set fastest times to lead the pack tomorrow.
The 22.44 km Prologue was essentially a time trial and qualifier for the first leg of the race, which starts Saturday. It determines the start order for Leg 1 as well as providing competitors a chance to test out their vehicles on the course so they are competition-ready.
Competitors said they had a good day out on the course, which gave them a good taste of Western Australia’s mid west with the course ducking and diving through gates, along and between fences and across open paddocks. Many said they were playing it safe to get a reasonable position for tomorrow, not taking too many risks.
Moto rider Warren Strange on Honda said his fastest time was all due to the set up of his bike. "The Prologue was awesome it was good fun and the bike’s great. It’s all set up for Dakar - the steering is light - there’s no weight on it, and the fuel tank sits really low. I felt relaxed and really enjoyed it."
Last year’s moto winner Todd Smith, and fastest Dakar Challenge finisher for the day, said he took it pretty easy. "The bike is really good, I didn’t push too hard, just working my way into it. It was the perfect start and I’m happy to be starting in fourth position tomorrow."
Geoff Olholm in the Cairns Coconut Racing Team Mitsubishi Pajero said they had fun on the course. "It was really enjoyable and we had a consistent day, the car felt really good. Coconuts live again!" Only 27 seconds off the auto lead was Safari win record holder John Hederics in the Holden Colorado.
International competitors fared well with Venezuelan driver Nunzio Coffaro in his Overdrive Toyota Hilux Pickup finishing fourth fastest, 54 seconds behind Olholm.
Manuel Lucchese from Italy finished ninth in the moto division, nearly two minutes behind Warren Strange. He said he was getting used to a new bike and wanted to ease himself into his second Safari.
Tomorrow competitors will be truly tested, starting the day along the surf with a sandy beach stage before heading inland for a rocky river crossing, farmland stages and a fast stage to finish before ending at the overnight stop at Kalbarri, 592 km north of Perth.
The Australasian Safari has been selected as one of only four feeder events for Dakar, one of the world’s most extreme and legendary off-road motorsport races. Seven riders are competing for this coveted prize and it has attracted riders from as far afield as The Netherlands and the USA.
2012/09/22 | 16:44 CET | ARTICLE: MR/HS/PITTAWAY