The 352 kilometre Leg Four from Gascoyne Junction to Exmouth was described as ‘exhausting’ by many Australasian Safari competitors. The rocky mill track in the first stage had vehicles burning through tyres, and the overgrown bush and rough terrain on the second stage was gruelling enough to have competitors slump in a heap beside their vehicles once arriving back at the bivouac.
Having a relatively smooth day, Dave McShane and Bill Hayes (WA) navigated the Toyota Tacoma into first position. Also problem free was Greg Scanlon and co-driver Liam Nunns (NSW) in the ARB Bendigo Nissan Patrol. They held onto second outright, only ten minutes behind McShane. “The car is going well. We had one flat tyre today, but it didn’t hold us up. We’re driving a little conservative, but it’s working,” said Greg.
“There was lots of scrub today. You get used to the bash, bash, bash on the sides of the car. Tomorrow should be a good, touch wood. Although, I’ve touched enough wood on course today.”
The combination of Steve Riley and John Doble (NSW) continues to work well, but may not make it to the starting line of the first stage tomorrow. “Very long day and I’m knackered. The car is holding up, it’s me. I’m doing it pretty hard to be honest,” said Steve.
“We got three or four flat tyres today, and we’re lucky to get in tonight. I’m out of tyres, and need to find some more to be able to start tomorrow. I’m going go round the service park and beg, borrow or steal some more.”
Steve Riley may have competition in the service park, as the Ford Ranger of John Purshouse and Murray Hynes (WA) also had four flats today. Adding to the pair’s woes was a broken tyre jack and an issue which shut down the fuel management system.
The side-by-side casualties came thick and fast. Early in the first stage, Garry Connell’s (WA) Artic Wildkat stopped and wouldn’t restart with a mechanical issue, and Jim Cairns and Rex Baker (WA) of Team Titan had engine problems.
Jim and Rex’s team mates, the Polaris driven by Robert Williams and Michael Hawkins (WA) had a far more successful day, not experiencing the mechanical issues plaguing many others in the category. “Great day, didn’t break anything and didn’t get lost,” said Robert.
The duo insist winning the category isn’t their main goal. “We came to Safari just to get through. It’s still a long way to go and you never know, the vehicle could be on the back of a trailer tomorrow,” said Robert.
Currently sitting in second was War Motorsport’s Dylan Minear and Steve Syson (WA). They said the day was physically demanding. “Really hard day. There were a lot of sheep and livestock. Anything that could move, was moving right in front of us,” said Steve.
Not even a broken odometer could slow Rodney Faggotter (QLD) down, the Yamaha rider once again taking both stage wins. “My odometer stopped working in the first stage, which is not great in a navigational rally! I had to work it out off the map,” said Rodney.
“Today’s course was really tight going with all the old over grown bush and hard clumps of grass. Should be better tomorrow because the cars would’ve flattened the course out a bit.”
West Australian moto rider Matthew Hart’s day went well, finishing each stage within the top five. “Good day. Managed to make up some time because I broke an oil line yesterday so lost three hours there,” said Matthew.
“Today was the most physical day we’ve had so far with a full fuel load. There were a few navigational tricks in there, but mostly it was nice and flowing so I got to concentrate on my riding instead of the maps.”
Both Quinn Cody and Ian Blythe from the United States are in second and third respectively. Ian is the leader of the Dakar Challenge category, with over two hours buffer between him and his nearest competitor, Cesare Zacchetti (IT).
Heath Young (WA) continues his charge in the quad division, but his day was not without its hassles. “Go Pro broke straight off its mount, and I thought I better stop and find it because it’s my daughters. That cost me at least four minutes. Then I lost a bit of rhythm because the section was really tough. On the second selective a bolt off and broke the brake pedal, so I had to cable tie it back on. After that I rode using only the front brakes,” said Heath.
John Maragozidis remains a close second place. “My turn today, John Maragozidis turn yesterday and hopefully it his turn again tomorrow,” said Heath.
The event remains in Exmouth tomorrow, where competitors will be racing in the same area as today, so can expect another exhausting day racing over the same gruelling terrain.
Leg Four is proudly sponsored by Toyo Tyres, who supply the tyres for the Safari course cars.
The Australasian Safari is known as Australia’s version of ‘Dakar’ and attracts top endurance motorsport competitors from around the world. Competitors embark on the seven day rally on September 19, and travel over 3,500kms through the Western Australian outback before crossing the finish line on Kalbarri Foreshore on September 27.
For more information on Australasian Safari and the latest results visitwww.australasiansafari.com.au. Updates are available on Facebook and Twitter at @austsafari and check out the video updates on our YouTube channel – AustralasianSafari.
The Western Australia Government sponsors the Australasian Safari through Tourism WA.