Penultimate day tests Safari’s men and machines
With just a day to run, John Hederics eased off as he paced himself towards victory at the Australasian Safari in Western Australia.
Competitors arrived in Kalbarri tired and battle weary after 429km through cattle country, along the Murchison River and finishing at Murchison House by the stunning Kalbarri National Park.
With the Holden Colorado driver out front, two convincing stage wins were sored by Geoff Olholm and one by Venezuelan Nunzio Coffaro. Second position outright is by Rob Herridge but there is only three minutes between third and fourth place.
Stage wins in the motos by Rod Faggotter, Brett Cummings and Todd Smith have not changed the overall results with Jake Smith banking a 29-minute lead going into tomorrow’s final stage.
South African rider Brett Cummings has an impressive four-hour lead in the Dakar Challenge over Dutchman Melchoir van Heertum. It is a huge achievement for Cummings as this is his first multi-day event.
The tracks caused more difficulty for the cars with tight treelines and deep sand to tackle.
Olholm in the Mitsubishi Pajero said the last 40km was great. “It was high speed and sandy flowing stages that required high concentration because of ruts and drifts, we were sliding around hitting 200km, it was a lot of fun. We left first and we were in first – it was brilliant.”
Despite winning a stage, Coffaro in the Toyota Hilux said they had a hard time in the rocky areas.
“It was hard for the car and the stages were very close to the trees – just millimetres. We punctured two tyres, lost our mirrors and our front grill. But otherwise the car is running great!”
Still holding second place, Herridge in the production class Subaru Forrester was philosophic about their game plan. “I’m between the devil and the deep blue sea – we’re nursing our position at the moment, we don’t want to be too foolhardy, but we want to go fast but we can’t.
“For tomorrow we’re crossing our fingers, crossing our T’s and dotting our I’s. We’re wrapped to be doing what we’re doing,” he said.
Wayne Park and Myles Newbon in their Toyota Hilux nudged into third place overall in the autos after today’s Leg. Park said they were now really pushing. “The first few days we were just cruising around waiting for people to drop out but now we’re trying harder and hoping for third.”
Still in the overall lead Hederics is focused on the finish line. “We had a really good run today, the last 40km was beautiful, the car’s going fine and we’re consolidating now, not pushing hard and preserving our lead.”
Jake Smith said he just took it steady today and enjoyed the ride. “I didn’t push it at all. It was fun riding – good tracks, good scenery, I could see the water at one stage – it was pretty nice. Everything’s going to plan, I’m feeling a bit tired, but if I get through tomorrow I’ll be feeling even better.”
Todd Smith had no issues on the course today and loved the ride. “They were some of the best stages of the event with nice flowing tracks, it was fun to ride and the bike went strong today.”
Brett Cummings said he performed well in the first and second stages but had issues in the last stage of the day. “100km into the third there was a big bang in the motor. It stayed running and I nursed it home. I’m disappointed as I was trying for third outright.”
Safari stalwart David Schwarz, sitting in seventh overall has his own impressive mission to accomplish. “I cruised along today, pushed along a little but didn’t take any risks. I’m aiming to finish tomorrow and if I do this will be my 10th Safari finish in a row.”
Warren Strange has held his second fastest overall position and loved the Leg. “Murchison Station was really scenic, I saw a few cattle and beautiful trees – it was the most enjoyable day so far. I nursed the bike and the body today and made sure I didn’t make any mistakes. I’m really looking forward to finishing, I’m not used to this pressure! I think the key for this event is going hard in the first couple of days to get in front and then preserve position.”
Paul Smith continues to hold the top place in the quads and unlike the moto and auto leaders he said he couldn’t hold back. “The first stage was like a rollercoaster in and out of sandy tracks. I should have been taking it easy but I was having too much fun passing bikes.”
Saturday is the final Leg and the eighth day of the Australasian Safari. Competitors have two short stages to bring it home to Geraldton. After crossing a paddock they will drop into the beach, blasting south to the finish line. Spectators are welcome to the finish at Geraldton Senior College.