Australasian Safari Stage 5

Australasian Safari: Leaders stable after Stage 5 – but hard car-battles.

The 5th stage of the Australasian Safari was tough – really tough. Hard
and fast roads, extremely dusty, covered with many jumps and small
tree-stumps which were hard to see in the dust. The Chinese cars ‘found’
this stumps… but more later.

Australasian Safari Stage 5
Australasian Safari Stage 5

The top three positions held yesterday by the Australian teams Lowndes
(Holden), Green (Nissan) and Garland (Isuzu) remain intact after today´s
411 kilometers Leg.

But first bad news for the Fans of the Chinese “Chang Feng” Mitsubishi
Pajeros, built in licence in “The land of smile”. Both cars retired today.
Both (!) cars hit a tree-stump on different places. One car was only
damaged, in the second car the driver was injured in the lower back.

Australasian Safari Stage 5
Australasian Safari Stage 5

Lowndes and Weel in their orange-red Holden Colorado retained their first
place position, and were on track to build their lead until they hit a
stump on the first stage with 50 km still to go. “We bent the left hand
rear suspension and survived that and the boys did a great job fixing it
in the service. We were well set up for the second stage but we had an
exhaust leak,” Lowndes said.

“It was a tough day in all. There were a lot of first gear corners, and a
lot of different terrain. We had to pass a few bikes and that´s a hazard
in itself. We were in their dust and looking for instructions and hazards
and then there´s the bikes coming out of the dust – they can catch you
out. My plan is to try to maintain the gap tomorrow which will set us up
for Saturday, which should be a shorter day, a kind of celebration.”

Australasian Safari Stage 5
Australasian Safari Stage 5

Darren Green and Wayne Smith retained their second fastest position,
despite their Nissan Patrol also encountering a tree. “The first stage was
really overgrown. We sideswiped a tree from front to back on the left
side. The back passenger door was flapping around for about 10 km before
we noticed and got out to shut it,” said co-driver Wayne Smith.

“In part of the second stage there was regrowth the height of the car. We
missed a corner and got lost instantly. I had to get out of the car and
run around in the dust to find the track. Those were the only two times
that we had to get out of the car. We´re going to change the radiator
overnight but other than that there is nothing we need to do to the car.
We enjoyed the scenery. When we came around the edge of the lake we wished
we could stop and have a cup of tea and enjoy it!”

Australasian Safari Stage 5
Australasian Safari Stage 5

Five-time Safari-Winner and Dakar-veteran Bruce Garland and Harry Suzuki
had an early challenge on their hands when a drive shaft snapped early in
the first stage and they were forced to make a repair on the run, but they
managed to hang on to third fastest position.

“I just took the whole thing out and continued another 200 km using 2WD”
said Garland. “We also had three punctures. “But we were back by the
second stage and will be coming out strong tomorrow.”

The ‘Cairns Coconut Racing’ Crew of Geoff Olholm and John Doble with their
Mitsubishi Pajero V60 including a V8-engine had a huge day, claiming
second fastest time in the second stage but also found driving through the
young trees in Special Stage 12 a huge challenge. They have no chances for
the podium now, because the used the Wedenesday for repairings and didn´t
drive. But they are back in the race, this is, what counts.

Australasian Safari Stage 5
Australasian Safari Stage 5

“We got a bit bushwhacked with the saplings in the regrowth area. It was
like being in a cornfield. We were driving through it and it rebounded and
we couldn´t see where we´d been. We also caught Bruce´s dust. I don´t know
what we hit, but the navigator´s passenger door was flapping around. We
had to cable tie it shut,” co-driver Doble said.

Tomorrow is the penultimate day of Safari 2010 and competitors will ride
south to the beautiful coastal town of Esperance, with sand dunes likely
to be prominent as the event moves closer to the Southern Ocean.

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.