RRMG: Fourth report from Australia – Stage 4

Australasian Safari: “A day like it should be” – great 4th stage on Tuesday.

The fourth stage on Tuesday was the longest distance travelled for
Australasian Safari competitors as they raced in three stages totalling
662 competitive kilometers overall and 459 kms in a looped course around
Laverton in Western Australia’s northern goldfields on the edge of the
Great Northern Desert.

The day began near to the City Laverton, one of the most eastern cities in
Western Australia. The first stage was rocky, tricky and full of curves,
passing a old goldmine. Later the stage goes on to the Victoria Desert, no
trees and bushes anymore, but lots of sand and some small, easy to handle
sanddunes. “It was nice” reported Italian´s Husaberg Factory driver Manuel
Lucchese, “different landscape, some sand, a little piece of Africa.”

Also Annie Seel from Sweden, yesterday unhappy with the stage, arrived
with a big smile in her beautiful Scandinavian face. “A day like it should
be here, I´m happy about this day, it was again fast, but not only on
fence-lines. You have to navigate, then some rocky regions, then the sand.
I enjoyed it.”

In the cars, it was a strong day for Lowndes and Panozzo in the Holden
Colorado, winning each of the three stages again and increasing their lead
time over Riley and Doble to 19 minutes overall. “I had a good day. The
first stage was challenging navigationally and a bit rough, but not as
rough as Leg 1. The second stage was good, nice sandy tracks that opened
up and were fast. There were some rutted out areas from all the recent
rains, which created some obstacles” he said.

Steve Riley was following the Factory-car with his private Mitsubishi
Pajero only with some minutes, they are still going strong in second
position. “We had a good day. It rained on the last stage – bucketed down
actually. I don’t think we made up any time on Craig (Lowndes) today but
we are going as quick as we can. We are really enjoying the Safari and
loving the scenery. We saw a wallaby, a pack of wild horses, and heaps of
Sturt Desert Peas today.”

The Team AAAC Racing team of Adrian Dilallo and Rob Masi, best car in the
production class with a Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution, had a good day
placing third fastest in the first and last stage and retaining fifth
overall position. “We went really well today, it was great, my favourite
day. The stages were fast and flowing desert tracks, which I loved. We
could throw the car around a bit and push hard – it was great fun.”

The only foreigners team, Rachan Trairat from Thailand and Harry Suzuki
from Japan, climbed the 8th position overall with their production Isuzu
D-Max car. “Today we had a good ride” Harry Suzuki told, “Rachan learned
more and more about the navigation. We didn´t follow a creek anymore, we
only followed the stage” he laughed. The communication in the car is a
little bit complicated: “So you speak English in the car?” .. “No.”… “So
what language?” … “Mostly Thai”… “So you can speak Thai
language?”…”No”… now you have an idea, how the communication works…

In the bikes, today’s was South Australian Shane Diener’s day, winning all
three stages on his Yamaha WR450. Jacob Smith and Todd Smith swapped
second place in the stages, with Jacob second fastest in two of the three.
Todd Smith is still in the overall moto lead by approximately 10 minutes.

“Today was pretty fast and the navigation wasn’t too tricky. We caught a
bit of rain, there were pools of water on the track but this didn’t cause
any problems. The bike is going well which helps” Diener said.

The Smith brothers from country New South Wales both enjoyed the sandy
tracks and fast pace and are enjoying both being on the same team this
year. “Today was fun, I enjoyed it,” Todd said. “I like going fast. The
only downside is it’s hard to increase lead-time when the navigation is
easier. I’m happy to have a bit of a gap now that we’re over half way so I
can ease off a bit.”

Jacob also had a good day. “It was a bit tricky at the start, but after
that the navigation was straight forward. “It’s heaps better this year
being in the same team as my brother Todd as we can help each other out.
Todd is in the hot seat and the race is really his to lose now,” he said.

Rod Faggotter is managing to hold onto fourth fastest position despite
having a broken hand sustained in Leg 2. Dakar champion and first-time
Safari entrant Cyril Despres is holding onto fifth position overall and is
still getting on top of a different style of racing.

“This is not the race I was expecting and I am taking it like a training
day – not pushing to ride as fast as possible. I enjoyed the sandy tracks
and was able to test the bike a bit,” Despres said.

In the Quads, John Maragozidis owned the Quad leg today on his MMR
Interceptor winning all three stages after race leader Colin Lawson struck
mechanical issues on the second stage today and was not able to complete
the Leg, a devastating blow after gaining a strong lead on the first three
Legs of Safari.

“Today was God’s gift to quads! We had fantastic conditions and awesome
tracks. I made a small navigational error that only cost a couple of
minutes. I need to keep having days like today,” he said.

Tomorrow the Australasian Safari travels south to Leonora, the second last
stop on the seven-day endurance race.