Lowndes maintains the pace at Safari
Craig Lowndes has stretched his advantage at the end of the third leg of the Australasian Safari in Western Australia.
Over 560 competitive kilometres, the two stages between Sandstone to Laverton threw everything at competitors. The day included many twists and turns, incredibly challenging navigation across rocky breakaways, overgrown fence lines, twisted tracks, stone roads, flood plains, and tricky navigation around bores, tanks, and windmills.
The second section for Leg 3 was described by the route coordinator as so challenging it could be a complete Safari on its own. This mixed bag of terrain was the longest section of the competition, covering 317.94km before arriving in Laverton.
Craig Lowndes and John Panozzo retained their lead in the autos, finishing 21 minutes ahead of nearest rivals Steve Riley and John Doble.
“I had a great day. The first stage had some nice clean runs with some challenging navigation points,” said Lowndes.
“Stage 6 was the long one and we carried enough fuel for the entire stage which meant the car was heavy. In the second half of the stage it was better as the car was more balanced. We got lost a couple of times, but nothing major. I enjoyed myself today and really liked the endurance.”
Riley said they pushed themselves and their Pajero hard today.
“It was a long day and my brain is fried! The windscreen cracked a few times from the car getting bashed around,” said Riley.
“Dakar was good practice for today – you have long days and have to concentrate the whole time.”
Four autos did not manage to finish the last stage. Kalgoorlie duo Graeme Muldrew and Keith Earle; Cairns Coconut Resort Team Geoff Olholm and Brent Twaddle; the Production Class Maximum Motorsports team of Rob Herridge and Tim Batten; and Thai driver Rachan Trairat with co-driver Harry Suzuki.
Todd Smith retained his lead, ahead of brother Jacob Smith by 10 minutes, and followed by Shane Diener who moved up one place after 2010 champion Ben Grabham “blew something in between the stages”. He did not ride the second stage.
Damien Grabham, Ben’s brother, won the first stage today, but had less luck on the second stage.
“The map reader stopped working, I looked down to see what was wrong with it and hit something and went straight over the handle bars,” said Damien Grabham.
“I saw Cyril (Despres) coming the wrong way, he was lost and we rode for 20 minutes together. I’m not happy and I’m really sore.”
Dakar legend Despres set the second fastest time in the morning stage, but the navigational issues in the afternoon cost him a place overall to slip back to sixth.
It was a rough day for Matt Fish as well. He moved from fifth position yesterday to receiving a one-hour penalty today.
Quad rider Paul Smith’s chance of retaining his 2010 title is over after breaking a leg on the last stage.
Colin Lawson loved the day and retained his number one position in the quads.
The course stays around the Laverton area tomorrow with a looped course that starts and finishes in the old gold mining town for a massive 660km over three competitive stages.
Laverton is the starting point for the 2800km Outback Way that connects Western Australia to Winton in Queensland through the central Australian Desert via Alice Springs.
Video Highlights of the Auto Division