In just under a week’s time, Australia’s best Cross Country Rally competitors will descend on the Wentworth Shire for the start of the 2019 Sunraysia Safari Cross Country Rally. Now in its third year, the rally continues to grow, and despite the heartbreaking drought conditions being experienced in the region, the local communities continue to embrace the event as a real highlight, and the ever increasing support sees access to more properties than ever before. As a result, competitors will experience 1230 competitive kms on 15 different special stages over the 4 days of the rally, from September 11-14. The Sunraysia Safari is in fact the longest rally in Australia in terms of competitive distance, and an amazing array of terrain and stunning landscapes will be experienced during this epic adventure.
Leading the Moto division is defending Champion Jacob Smith, who after campaigning with Honda for many years, returns to the Sunraysia Safari on a Husqvarna FE 501 for the first time. 2017 winner Rod Faggotter has unfortunately been sidelined with injury this year, but local brothers Toby and Beau Hederics will be leading the charge, along with many other riders keen to capture the Number 1 plate. New Zealander Tony Rutter returns to take on the challenges of Outback NSW for the second time, and with future interest demonstrated for International Event status, he’s the first of what is expected to be an influx of overseas competitors to the event. The rally has a category for sidecars for the first time, and it will be fascinating to watch their progress, along with the quads. A healthy field of riders from all over the country will be giving their all to make it through to the finish!
The Auto Division has increased significantly since last year, and with the greater quantity comes quality as well! Defending Champions Michael Denham/Daniel Adam will face stiff competition in their Micklefab Raptor, from former Champion John Purshouse, as well as young charger Luke Olholm in his Dakar spec Century CR6. With names on the entry list like Tony Quinn, Les Walkden, Glenn Owen, and not forgetting multiple Australian Safari winner John Hederics, it’s going to be on for young and old!
The Sunraysia Safari continues to innovate, and this year sees a “Show and Shine” style display on the evening of Tuesday September 10 at the Wentworth Showgrounds, which is the headquarters of the event. Designed to give the locals an opportunity to see the vehicles up close, and meet the competitors, it has been developed out of an interest from the communities to be more involved. “The level of interest and support from the people in the region continues to amaze me” explained Event Director Troy Bennett. “Even in the midst of the drought that is causing so much hardship for so many of our friends up here, the main topic of conversation when I’m out on the properties is how can they help us? It’s truly remarkable and humbling to see such resilience and community spirit”.
New for the 2019 edition is the final “super special” stage with a spectator point set up to allow everyone to see what Cross Country Rallying is all about. Located less than 3kms from the finish of the event (at the Wentworth Showgrounds) on the Old Wentworth Rd, on the afternoon of Saturday September 14, it is expected to be very popular, and a great way to showcase the sport.
So, on Wednesday September 11, the 2019 Sunraysia Safari will roar into life, for what must be the ultimate test of endurance, skill, and raw speed on the Australian Rally Calendar. Who will win remains impossible to tell, but one thing that can be guaranteed is that all the competitors will have an unforgettable experience in the meantime!