It was highlights and lowlights in Leg 1 of the Australasian Safari, with sand traps, tricky twisting navigation and rugged terrain in three stages in and around Northampton and Kalbarri in Western Australia.
West Australian Dave McShane’s recent vehicle purchase paid off today with a first place finish. “I knew of the car’s pedigree – it has won two previous South African Cross Country Championships – and tracked it down and purchased it,” McShane said. “The first time I had driven it properly was yesterday in the Prologue.
“We had problems with the drive shaft in the end of the second stage so had to take it easy in the third but otherwise the car is fantastic to drive. The Murchison River stage (SS3) was really tough, difficult to navigate and had to be really patient through there.”
Cairns Coconut Resort Racing’s Geoff Olholm and Gordon Trigg finished two minutes 12 seconds behind McShane. Olholm said there was great variety in each stage.
“The first two stages were really fun, there was plenty of sand and fast big jumps. The last stage was rocky. We caught up to the bikes who slowed us down. We got lost once but only lost about a minute. The car is fine, no problems today.”
Heath Young is happy to be leading the quads after an eventful day. “Nine kilometres into the second stage my map roller stopped, and the bike lost power. I couldn’t manually turn it so I just followed my nose to get out of there. I had to do two tow-starts and keep it running and John (Maragozidis) helped me get going. Hopefully it’s just a fuse. I’m feeling really great though and had a great day.”
Last year’s moto winner Jake Smith is likely to be out of contention but will be back on the bike tomorrow. After winning the first and second stages, he had engine failure in the last stage requiring vehicle recovery. He reversed roles with his brother Todd who was out in the first leg last year. It was a much better day for Queensland Yamaha dealer Rod Faggotter who worked his way to the top by the end of the Leg.
Faggotter said he had a good day and a smooth run. “The first stage was heavy sand making the bike work hard. For me today was about getting through it and not pushing too hard. My goal was to ride smoothly and not crash.”
Todd Smith finished the Leg in second place and said despite a slow start he finished well. “The first stage was really sandy and soft and the front wheel sunk. I came off and it took me a little while to get my flow back. Later on I had to slow down for some sheep but the rest of the ride was smooth.”
Warren Strange, riding an Aprilla RXV550, was lucky to finish and even luckier to place eighth at the end of the Leg. “In the first stage I had fuel running down my leg from a faulty fitting on the front fuel tank. I had to stop and siphon it from the front to the back fuel tank,” Strange said.
“Then in the third stage I had to get towed. I owe Ivan (Erceg) a carton. He towed me and I hung on to his camelback. Then on top of it all I also had a failure with the starter motor – I couldn’t stall and had to keep going otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to start again.”
Rally driver Alister McRae is still getting used to the navigation. “I’m really enjoying it so far but still getting my head around the navigation. I’m used to having someone tell me where to drive! The second stage was really good.”
It was a tough day for each of the old bikes in the first stage with Chris Hse’s 1983 BMW R65 stopping in the stage, Jiri Vasatko from the Czech Repuplic’s 1985 Honda XL 600 LM getting stuck in beach sand, and Luc Michellys from France’s 1983 Honda XL 600 also caught in beach sand requiring recovery.
Michael Heuchan is on top of the side-sides after Garry Connell blew a tyre, and rubber went into the exhaust and he had to stop to use his fire extinguisher.
Giuliano Airoldi from Italy and Sebastien Delaunay from France got bogged in beach sand in Stage 1, which moved them into third place.
Connell said the vehicles were comparable to the speed of the autos in the tighter sections but were slower on the straights.
Today’s racing travelled through farm paddocks, along the edge of the Bowes River, into Yandi Station and across the Vermin Proof Fence and into rough, rugged and rocky terrain on Coolcalalaya Station. Competitors crossed Murchison River and finished up at Mary Springs Station.
Leg One of the Australasian Safari was proudly suppored by Britz – a great way to travel around Western Australia and helps keeping Safari moving.
Tomorrow competitors will tackle two long stages of 147km and 288km respectively heading to Gascoyne Junction.
Leg 1 results – Top 10
Rodney Faggotter 02:57:58
Todd Smith 02:58:34
Matt Fish 03:02:30
Shane Diener 03:05:04
Lee Stephens 03:06:26
Vernon Strange 03:06:33
Russell Scoble 03:11:15
Warren Strange 03:11:21
Alister McRae 03:11:56
Ivan Erceg 03:15:42