|Australasian Safari: Scrutineering finished, thousands of kilometers waiting.|
When the Australasian Safari starts tomorrow in Southern Cross, the 100 two-wheel and four-wheel competitors will get their first taste of a gruelling seven days of Western Australia´s offroad conditions. Some, like five-time auto winner Bruce Garland, are seasoned offroad veterans and others, including V8 Supercar champion Craig Lowndes, will be tackling the extreme outback adventure for the first time.
Garland said he was hoping to create history in the 25th year of Australasian Safari. "My goal this year is to be the first diesel car to cross the line. No diesel has ever won first place outright. Mother nature will be my biggest competitor, but there are five or six teams out there who will be hard to beat."
Lowndes has a string of victories on the racetrack but no experience offroad. He believes if his long-time rally co-driver Kees Weel can give him the right instructions he¹ll stay out of trouble. "I´m excited and nervous but we´ve done some good preparation so we´ll get out there and see what we can do. 3600 kilometres is a long way, but the Colorado has the reliability to get us through to the last day," Lowndes said.
There will be strong competition on the bikes in 2010. The top three outright winners from 2009 are back in 2010. Two-time winner KTM rider Ben Grabham is looking for his third victory, and last year´s winner Jacob Smith riding for Honda, and brother Todd on a KTM will provide a huge challenge.
Grabham said he was going into the race with a plan to make it to the end. "It´s a big crazy race where anything can happen and over such long distances and usually does. If I go out there and ride my best, I´m happy."
Strong international contenders in 2010 are Brazil´s number one offroad moto ride Ze Helio and Swedish Rally Princess Annie Seel, who won the women´s trophy at the 2010 Dakar Rally. Both are riding for the Husaberg team. It is Helio´s first time in Australia and he is looking forward to testing his skills in our unique conditions.
"We did some test rides over the past two days and I really enjoyed it. I¹ve already seen some kangaroos, but I am used to these obstacles in Brazil we sometimes see bulls, so kangaroos are better! Every rally has its challenges and you need to be physically strong for the long days," Helio said.
Event director Justin Hunt said the course was designed this year to really make the most of Western Australia¹s diverse conditions. "Competitors will ride and drive from Australia¹s west coast to its far southern coast with thousands of kilometres of bushland, desert and dirt in between. This will be a massive challenge for competitors in terms of how their vehicles handle the variety of terrain, the types of tyres they use, and how fast they can react to the changing conditions," Hunt said.
The Australasian Safari commences tomorrow in the wheatbelt town of Southern Cross with a Prologue Day, following tonight´s public Ceremonial Start in Perth at Hillarys Boat Harbour.
Considered one of the world´s great endurance events, the Australasian Safari will this year see the auto, moto and quad competitors travel through remote Western Australian goldfields, desert, rugged bush and coastal dunes before hitting the southern coast at Esperance.
2010/09/17 | 09:41 CET | EDITOR: MR/HS/PITTAWAY