A beach dash along the Indian Ocean from Kalbarri to Geraldton in Western Australia was the finale of the eight-day off-road motorsport marathon Australasian Safari, Australia’s toughest motorsport event.
Every competitor who crossed the finish line is a winner for completing a gruelling eight days of competition covering approximately 3500 competitive kilometers off-road on beaches, through sand dunes, over creeks, rocky riverbeds, claypans and cattle stations.
Jake Smith, 24, from NSW won the Australasian Safari moto division as he did in 2009. He held the lead for the entire event on his Honda CRF450X and finished with a comfortable 31 minutes to spare.
With brother Todd Smith, last year’s Safari moto winner, they have a combined seven podiums in seven events in WA on three different marques – Honda, Yamaha and KTM.
Jake said he was still feeling really good after the eight days of racing and was relieved it was all over. “It’s never over ‘til its over so I was taking it easy to get through the cool beach stages and cross the finish line. Having won last in 2009 it’s a really good feeling to win again,” he said.
WA’s Warren Strange, 47, is no stranger to Safari and he rode his Dakar-built Honda CRF450X to finish convincingly in second place, one hour 39 minutes ahead of his nearest rival.
“I’m really happy that an old guy like me can do this! I gave up motocross riding when these guys around me were kids!
“I’ve tried to do quite a lot of events this year in my preparation for Dakar so I’m really pleased it has paid off.”
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Warren’s second place win was also a huge personal achievement for him, having had leukemia for 20 years. “I’ve been able to take time off work to train and now I’m following my passion, life’s too short,” he said.
Ryan Inghram, 33, also from WA, achieved a third place podium finish on a KTM450 despite this being his first attempt at the Australasian Safari.
“I’m feeling pretty good with this being my first Safari, it’s the longest event I’ve contested. It was harder than I thought, a tough week. The stages were good, the longer the better for me. The bike’s been great to me too.”
David Schwarz, 42, from South Australia, on Husaberg FE450, has finished in the top ten of the last ten Australasian Safaris. This is a huge achievement for this marathon event. No other competitor has managed more than four and in 2012 he finished seventh outright.
“Ten years of racing is a long time. I’m tired but happy. This year’s stages were great, I really enjoyed it, it ranks right up there with the other Safaris I’ve done. The variation in the terrain and the styles of riding were great and there were some true Safari stages. It was great to go somewhere new.”
The winners of five of the last six Australasian Safaris have won on Honda bikes.
John Hederics (NSW) and Kees Weel (Qld) in the Holden Colorado finished a comfortable one hour 24 minutes ahead of their nearest rivals and drove a steady race over the past eight days. Hederics holds the record for most Australasian Safari wins on a moto and in an auto.
Hederics is arguably the event’s most experienced competitor. He has won six out of seven Safari attempts on a moto and four out of seven attempts in an auto. It is Weel’s second win as a navigator and the fourth win for the car.
Hederics said he was happy, relieved and glad to be back.
“I had to rush back for the footy today to watch Sydney! We held the lead for three days and had it to lose. Driving conservatively is sometimes harder than going fast.
“I’ve been on loads of Safaris as a competitor and as support, this is by far the best course. The difference in terrain and the variances have been really good. The organisation is good and there are experienced guys running the show and they know what’s required.”
The second place win for West Australians Rob Herridge and Sam Hill was a huge achievement. Their Subaru Forester was entered in the Production Class, meaning the car had very few modifications. They finished an impressive one hour and 39 minutes ahead of third place holders and with their service crew managed to keep the car on track for the eight days.
“I’m feeling pumped. We’ve been trying not to celebrate for three days because it’s not over ‘til it’s over. It went well beyond our expectations, not only did we win a few stages, we came second outright. It’s a testament to Subaru cars. We’re wrapped.”
Veteran off-road racers of more than 40 years, Victorians Reg Owen and Russel Cairns, placed third in the autos, a well-deserved position after competing in an impressive 15 Australasian Safaris.
Reg said it felt great. “We had to work for it. We were pushing quite hard today but 122 (Park/Newbon) made the bigger mistake. They were pushing as well. This event has been tops. They have got it 100 percent right. The tracks were great, they were marked well and it has made a big difference.”
Victorian Paul Smith, 35, won the Australasian Safari convincingly from start to finish on his Honda TRX700XX. He has contested each Australasian Safari since quads were introduced five years ago and won in 2010.
He said he was relived and stoked. “Especially after last year’s stuff up and the helicopter ride to hospital with a broken leg, I’m really glad to be on top. In true Safari form, the event had to throw something at me, and in the last three kilometers I hit a sheep. It was OK and ran away.
“I loved the Gascoyne region for Safari, the stages were awesome – pure evil! It’s the least troubles I’ve ever had on the event and it’s a credit to the guys who built the bike. I’m really happy, next stop Dakar!” Smith said.
South African rider Brett Cummings (29) won the Dakar Challenge in his first marathon event.
“I’m feeling happy to get through it, it was unknown pressure for me especially yesterday getting a 45-minute penalty. I made some stupid mistakes today, I went too slow in the sand and had a big crash in the second stage – my only crashes of the event have been today!
“I’ve liked the organisation of Australasian Safari and the routes. I’ve learnt so much coming out of this race. I’ve had some great pointers from Jake and Todd (Smith) and I’m looking forward to next time.
“Winning the Dakar Challenge means it will be easier for us to get sponsors, it lightens the load on the pockets. I was uncertain of how I would go on a multi day event and I’m so happy I’ve managed to maintain pace over the seven days.”
115 competitors started the Australasian Safari last Saturday (21 September) and after a Prologue and seven legs there were 92 competitors crossed the finish line today.
The Australasian Safari, from 21 to 29 September 2012, is an eight-day endurance race that sees competitors travel mainly off-road tracks through the outback of Western Australia. The event is known as one of the toughest and most challenging motorsport events in the world. This year’s course is approximately 3500km through the mid west of Western Australia.
For more information on Australasian Safari and the latest results visit www.australasiansafari.com.au. Updates are available on Facebook and Twitter at @austsafari and check out the video updates on our YouTube channel – AustralasianSafari.
The Western Australia Government sponsors the Australasian Safari through Eventscorp, a division of Tourism WA.
2012 Australasian Safari moto winners. 1st Jake Smith, 2nd Warren Strange, 3rd Ryan Inghram
Australasian Safari Quad podium 1st Paul Smith, 2nd Heath Young, 3rd Neville Yeatman
Brett Cummings won the 2012 Australasian Safari Dakar Challenge