Australasian Safari: Competitors play “cat and mouse” on first Marathon day.
Monday’s Marathon Leg, the first of two in this year’s Australasian
Safari, saw the top of the field in the motos, cars and quads secure their
positions in a day of cat and mouse where caution was key to stay in the
race. Limited servicing rules meant it was crucial to keep the vehicles in
one piece over some incredibly difficult terrain.
The cars have faced another tough day and the Denhams in their special
built Mitsubishi Triton remain at the top of the field, five minutes in
front of the Australian local V8-Series “Star” Craig Lowndes and Kees Weel
in their Holden Colorado (Australian GM-version of Isuzu D-Max).
Craig was happy with the way the car drove and stuck to the game plan of
looking after it to get it to the end of the two Marathon days. “The car
went really well. I got told last night that we just had to get through
these stages pretty much unscathed, so we’re not too concerned about time.
Our main priority, given Kees and I have to work on it ourselves, is to
make sure we don’t have to do too much to it.
“We just cleaned the windscreen and that’s about all we did in service.
The car is nice, its got some marks on the tyres but we’re in good shape
Darren Green and Wayne Smith finished in fourth position, having some
highs and lows over the course of the Leg. “Parts of the course today
suited us. There was a big variation in the types of terrain. The rocky
stuff suits us, but the sand is no good,” Darren said. “We backed up a lot
today and didn’t go flat out. We started off fast but about 70 km in we
hit a rock and buckled the wheel. That made us reassess and slow down. The
stages are a lot more rugged than they have been before. The hardest on
the cars that we’ve ever seen.”
Dakar-legend and Isuzu-pioneer Bruce Garland and Harry Suzuki are sitting
in fifth outright after today, about 14 minutes behind the leaders. Bruce
said it was a difficult course, and their game plan was also to stay
cautious to keep their Isuzu D-Max intact.
“On the first stage today it was hard to find the track sometimes. But
other than that we took it pretty easy. The second stage was easier. They
were still fairly tight, but there were some long fast straights. We
staked a tyre on a rocky section, and then just changed the air filter in
the service but apart from that all we did was to clean the windscreen and
have a look at everything. “We’ll do the same tomorrow. There is still a
lot of racing to go.”
In the Bikes, Todd Smith on a KTM managed to finish on top of the motos
despite nursing a sore shoulder from yesterday and thanks to some on-form
navigation. “I thought the stages were still pretty tight, but much faster
today. They were a bit more predictable, so I guess that makes them
faster. I went past Jake, Ben and Rod on the last stage because they took
a wrong turn. “I had a hole in the radiator, so I had to fix that in the
service. I didn’t get a chance to do much else,” Todd said.
Yesterday’s leader Ben Grabham, also on a KTM, had a strategy for a steady
day. It proved successful, finishing just over a minute later than Todd.
The Marathon Day rules do not allow moto tyres to be changed during the
stages, so Ben said he wasn’t trying to be fast to minimise wear on his
“The guys who were going too fast have shredded theirs so it will be
interesting to see how they go tomorrow. I don’t expect to be in the lead
after today, because I was riding conservatively. Today’s stages were long
and faster, and a bit more open. Yesterday was more technical. I was first
on the stage, and so I was trying to set the pace and slow things down a
bit, thinking about tomorrow,” Ben said.
Rod Faggotter on a Yamaha WR450F had an eventful day, getting caught twice
in wire on the track. “For the second stage we were riding single file and
chewing dust. The wire slowed me down in the morning and I would have
dropped some time because of that. I was riding to conserve the bike, in
service I just did and oil change and changed the air filter. I dented a
rim, but there is not much you can do to fix it and anyway its fine. Its
going to be interesting to see how some of the bikes last tomorrow.”
Paul Smith was the leader of the quads on his Honda TRX700XX, ahead of
John Maragozidis on a Interceptor 850 by 32 minutes.
Competitors will have to face a second Marathon Day tomorrow as the event
travels from Leonora to the historic goldfields town of Coolgardie, once
the third largest town in Western Australia.
Considered one of the world’s great endurance events, the Australasian
Safari is travelling from Southern Cross in the wheatbelt through to the
historic Western Australian goldfields, desert, rugged bush and coastal
sand dunes, finishing at Esperance.