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Australasian Safari: Prologue victory for rolled car, Despres stuck in the dust.








On Friday, the "Australasian Safari Rally" 2011 has started with the prologue - which was at least 19.35 km long. The start was scheduled for 03:20 pm, but all had to get up early: From Perth the group had to mange a first liasion about 405 kilometers along a nice coastal road next to the Indian Ocean to Geraldton in the north of Western Australia.

Some private farmers suported the rally with their huge private grounds and opened all gates - and personally some of them watched the rally as real fans. The landscape was really exciting - again the rally didn´t start in the desert, but in green country, flooded with billions of violet flowers. The green grass, hills and valleys reminds a little to Scandinavian landscape, maybe like the beach regions in Danmark or Sweden.

Above all, the navigation was tricky, you had to be damn careful that you didn´t get lost. With the Toyota presscar we drove all the way - like as an "opening-vehicle". Well, we were at once before a one-meter-high flower fields and the road book says, "left". But there was no left, only straight and right... "Do we have a navigation point," asked our driver Peter. "No.." ... "Ok, let´s try and trust the roadbook." After all, we were right - but now we made a track for the following competitors.

This is one of the specialities in the Australasian Safari Rally - sometimes the road ends but the roadbook says "straight on". Then you have to find your way, pure off-road. Ok, sometimes you can follow the tracks of the openers, but if there are stony fields or wadis, there are no tracks. The rest of the stage was incredibly fast. No heavy bumps, some wadi crossings, tight curves, hard changes of direction.

But in some points there are some stones in the track - and the sun was against you. So the father-son duo Paul and Kees Weel pushed their new Holden Colorado very hard, drifted above a stone and rolled the nail-new car - in the first kilometers of the Rally. But they had luck: The car landed on it´s four wheels, the crew don´t think a second and started directly with full throttle.

In the end of the day the sensational result: Both made the stagewin in the prologue with 16:17 minutes in front of the two Mitsubishi crews Quinn/Fever and Riley/Doble. "Don´t ask me, how we made it" Paul Weel laughed, "we just started again and won the race." The car was only softly damaged, nothing important - so both will open the first Stage on Saturday. Last year´s winner Craig Lowndes, also driving a Holden Colorado, had to find his rhythm today and managed only 7th place with 17:55 minutes.

In the bikes all followed the "Superstar" Cyril Despres, who was constantly pursued by a helicopter. But Despres only finished on 8th position, what happened? "It wasn’t a great prologue stage for me so hopefully that’s not a sign of how things will go for me here in Australia" the sympathic French told. "The prologue was only 20km long so when I got stuck behind a bike I couldn’t pass it was always going to cost me. My final time has me starting the first stage of the rally back in seventh but I will be doing my best to make this work in my favour."

So the Australian Jacob Smith (Honda) made the day with 16:05 minutes, followed by last year's winner Ben Grabham (KTM) and Todd Smith (Honda). Despres was best foreign competitor, followed by the young Italian talent Manuel Lucchese (Husaberg, 12th, 17:15), Annie Seel from Sweden (Husaberg, 20:36, 13th), the South African Glen Grundy (Honda, 23:55, 43rd) and the US-American Seth Strait (KTM, 27:27) on the last place - he needs to acclimate itself...

What happens next? The first Stage on Saturday is a big first challenge for the participants. The bikers have to wake up early at 04:30 clock. After a liasion of 141 kms in the direction of "Old Couch," there will be the first stage about 183.45 kilometers in scoring. After a further transfer of 43 kilometers, a Service Park is waiting for the participants, then it goes into the second stage: 232 kilometers off-road.

The landscape varies, forest, stones and the first mines will be passed. After a last liasion of 19 kilometers, the finish will be in the village "Mount Magnet".

2011/09/23 | 17:54 CET | ARTICLE: MR/HS












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