Smith becomes youngest ever Safari winner
Twenty-year old Condobolin rider, Jacob Smith, has become the youngest ever winner of the Australasian Safari after dominating the seven-day event, which finished in the Western Australian gold mining city of Kalgoorlie today.
Riding a Honda CRF 450X, Smith took the lead on the third of the event’s 19 timed stages and finished the 3771 kilometre event 14 minutes and 18 seconds ahead of his brother, Todd Smith, riding a KTM. Defending champion, Ben Grabham, also on a KTM, was third, three minutes 30 seconds further back.
Czech Republic rider, Josef Machacek, has easily won the quad bike category in his first Safari. The five-time Dakar Rally winner showed his skill and experience to head home Victorian Paul Smith, and his countryman, Martin Plechaty.
Leongatha dairy farmer, Steve Riley, claimed his second Safari auto win in the same Mitsubishi Pajero that he drove to victory in 2008. Riley wasn’t the fastest man on each day of the event, but his considerable experience of the marathon paid dividends, finishing 16 minutes 43 seconds clear of fellow Victorian Terry “Tangles” Conner in a Nissan. Veteran Reg Owen was third, another one hour 22 minutes in arrears.
The final day of the off-road marathon saw competitors tackle two stages on a 165 kilometre loop out of the gold mining city of Kalgoorlie. Navigational skills were really tested over a number of tricky station tracks.
Ben Grabham started the event as hot favourite in the bike section after winning the past two Safaris, but his hopes of a third straight win ended on day two when he lost a rear tyre and dropped over an hour to the Smith brothers.
From then on, Jacob Smith controlled the event, and the third year apprentice linesman was elated with his victory.
“It’s fantastic to beat to Ben (Grabham) as he’s the best rider in Australia,” Smith said. “Any time you can beat him it’s a good achievement. It’s my third Safari, so it’s third time lucky – I was second in 2007, and had an engine failure last year.”
While he wasn’t the event favourite, Smith was always aiming for victory.
“I always race to win, I don’t do it for second, but it was such a strong field it was always going to be tough. But after the first few days I knew I could do it.”
Having his 24-year old brother in second place was an added bonus.
“We work together, even though we’re on different teams, and we support each other,” Smith said. “We always wanted to be 1-2, it was just a case of who was first and who was second.”
Anything but a full-time professional rider, Smith will be back at work on Monday morning, less than 48 hours after his historic victory.
Fourth placed Ivan Erceg was the first Western Australian rider home on his KTM, easily taking his best ever Safari result. He finished over half an hour clear of South Australian David Scwharz on a Husaberg.
“Coming into the event I was hoping for a top ten finish, but I never thought I’d be this high. I’m stoked with the result,” Erceg said.
Swedish rider, Annie Seel, relished her first Safari experience, and reaped praise on the event and her fellow competitors.
“I think if you want to do the Dakar in Argentina then you need to do this event first as a training event,” the 40-year old veteran said. “I’m going to try to sell the event back home and get more competitors for next year.
“I was particularly impressed by how fast the locals ride with the navigation. An Aussie team in the Dakar could do very well. For me, this event was as tough as the Dakar.”
The quad category was made up mostly of international competitors, but in his first Safari, veteran Czech rider Josef Machacek was still expected to take victory
“It has been super training for Dakar, we’re planning on being back,” the 52-year old said.
“The main difference to Dakar was there was no people out there to watch, compared to Argentina where there are hundreds of people watching – it was great to be in the outback.”
Steve Riley was thrilled to take his second consecutive auto category win, despite some last day navigational issues that saw him lose six minutes on the first stage which gave his rivals a sniff of an upset victory.
“It’s a huge relief to get to the finish,” Riley said.
“This has been a day of real highs and lows. The high was obviously winning, but we got bogged 14 kilometres into the first stage of the day and lost that time.
“We tried putting sticks under the car and shovelling, but it wasn’t until Darren Green came along and towed us out that we could continue. That really shows the camaraderie of our fellow competitors.
“We were always confident that we could do well because we’d done our homework and had put a lot of work into the car before the start. However, there are so many variables in this event that you never know what’s going to happen until you cross the finish line.
“To win is a great feeling,” he added.
Final results, 2009 Australasian Safari (provisional)
1 Jacob SMITH (NSW), Honda CRF 450 X, 22h 58m 09s
2 Todd SMITH (NSW), KTM 530 EXC, +14m 18s
3 Ben GRABHAM (NSW), KTM 530 EXC, +17m 48s
4 Ivan ERCEG (WA), KTM 450 EXC, +1h 58m 57s
5 David SCHWARZ (SA), Husaberg, +2hrs 32m 25s
1 Josef MACHACEK (CZ), Yamaha Raptor, 29h 26m 03s
2 Paul SMITH (VIC), CAN AM Renegade 800 R X, +3h 04m 55s
3 Martin PLECHATY (CZ), Borile Bory FM 700R, +4h 21m 02s
1 Stephen RILEY (Vic)/ John DOBLE (NSW), Mitsubishi Pajero, 26h 22m 24s
2 Terry CONNER (Vic)/ Jodi CONNER (Vic), Nissan GQ Ute, +16m 43s
3 Reg OWEN (Vic)/ Russell CAIRNS (Vic), Nissan Patrol, +1h 38m 39s
4 Beau ROBINSON (WA)/ Dieter ALLEN (WA), Mitsubishi Pajero, +1h 56m 23s
5 Darren GREEN (VIC)/ Wayne SMITH (VIC), Nissan Patrol, +2h 13m 52s
Auto, motorbike and quad bike competitors will tackle the course that starts in Perth and ends in Kalgoorlie. The Safari will have overnight stops in Geraldton, Mt Magnet, Leonora and Laverton, before finishing in the gold mining city of Kalgoorlie on Saturday, August 8.
International entries have already been received from the USA, China, Sweden, South Africa, Japan, New Zealand and the Czech Republic, enhancing the event’s reputation as one of the world’s toughest, and most respected, motorsport events.
For further information on the event, visit the Australasian Safari website at:www.australasiansafari.com.au