|Australasian Safari: Tight dusty prologue course sets the field for Stage 1.|
Last year's second place winner in the Moto division, Todd Smith, will be first on Leg One of the Australasian Safari when the gruelling seven-day event takes off from Southern Cross in the Western Australian eastern wheatbelt tomorrow (Sunday 19 September).
Despite coming off his KTM 530 towards the end of the short 19.34 km stage, Todd finished 19 seconds ahead of fellow NSW riders AJ Roberts on a Honda CRF 450, and Ben Grabham on his KTM 530.
Todd said he was happy about leading out tomorrow because it meant he wouldn¹t have to deal with as much dust. 'It's probably a bit harder to be first out - there"s no tracks to follow but that¹s also an advantage as I need to focus on my own navigation and will be less tempted to follow someone else"s tracks.'
AJ Roberts reported, he was also happy to be following Todd in first position and was looking forward to the week, following his forced retirement last year. 'Todd knows what he¹s doing so it¹s good to have him in front. Anything can happen over a week of racing but I'm happy with my bike and this is an event where its as much about the natural elements as your skills or the machine,' he said.
Mitsubishi Pajeros were the standout in the auto division with Geoff Olham and John Doble from the Cairns Coconut team finishing first at 20:20 minutes, and Tony Quinn and Toni Feaver in the VIP Petfoods team second fastest at 20:36 minutes.
Craig Lowndes and Kees Weel finished the Prologue with the fourth fastest time at 20:52 and a few scratches on the Holden Colorado from the tight twists and turns of the course. Craig was happy with the time, but said the course today was a lot tighter than what he had practiced on. 'We had a few first gear corners so I¹m hoping tomorrow the stages will open up and we can really get the car going,' Craig said.
Three-time Safari competitor Paul Smith on a Honda TRX700 was fastest in the Quad category at 20:52.
Tomorrow's Leg One takes competitors north east to the goldfields town of Leonora with 356.79 competitive kilometres over three stages and a mid-leg service in Menzies. Total distance travelled will be 579 km for the leg.
The course is expected provide a range of challenges including overgrown tracks, twists and turns through heavy sand, a crossing of the Trans Australia Railway line, salt lakes and heavy rutts, rough mine site roads and rocky terrain.
Considered one of the world¹s great endurance events, the Australasian Safari will travel from Southern Cross in the wheatbelt through to the historic Western Australian goldfields, desert, rugged bush and coastal sand dunes, finishing at Esperance.
2010/09/16| 14:52 CET | EDITOR: MR/HS