Rodney Faggotter wins Australian Safari 2014
The finish line celebrations on Kalbarri Foreshore were a mixture of happiness, relief and sadness for Australasian Safari competitors and organisers today. This group of 127 competitors are likely to be the last entrants to race the iconic motorsport event, a few of whom such as Bruce Garland, Steve Riley and Jim Cairns were also entrants in the first Safari in 1985.
The navigational rally took the cars, bikes, and side by side buggies through their paces in a variety of terrain, from the harsh red desert of Western Australia’s Mid-West and Pilbara, to the sandy dunes and coastal scrub of the Coral Coast. The 2014 route was a true test of endurance, with competitors and event officials travelling over 3,500 kilometres in seven days.
Dubbed the Murchison Mega Finale, Leg 7 was 155 kilometres of mettle testing terrain – the final test of resilience for both car and competitor. Those final kilometres subjected competitors to the lot – from twists and turns, to fast straights, solid rock, sand, pindan, mud and corrugated tracks. Those who reached the flying finish were rewarded with breathtaking views of the Murchison River.
Defending champion Rod Faggotter has held the Moto outright lead throughout the seven days, winning eleven of the fifteen stages. American Baja champion Quinn Cody has never been far behind, consistently posting a top four time in each stage.
Dakar Challenge entrant, Ian Blythe, had a successful first navigational rally, continuously keeping a good buffer of time between himself and his fellow challenge contenders.
West Australians Robert Williams and Michael Hawkins of Team Titan won the title of outright side-by-side champions by a comfortable three hours. In second place was Dylan Minear and Steve Syson, from War Motorsports also from Western Australia. It was Dylan’s second rally, having only competed in the Forest Rally previous. Simon Clifford in the Polaris XP 900 came third.
It was back to back outright moto titles for Queensland Yamaha rider Rod Faggotter. Rod’s dream run continued today, with no navigation errors and no issues from his bike.
“Today wasn’t too stressful, it was just about getting the job done and making sure I made the finish line,” Rodney explains. “All the hard work was done in the opening days to build a good lead and I just had to keep it together to give the Active8 Yamaha team the victory they deserve.
“I had one pretty big moment today but after days of riding around in the dry and dusty conditions, it decides to flog down with rain on the last day just as we approach the finish,” Faggotter laughs.
“Again, Yamaha Australia and Ray Howard have been amazing supporters of me and the Australian Safari and this year working with the Active8 Yamaha team has made my life much easier.
“I also want to thank and congratulate the organisers of the event and with the future a bit uncertain at the moment, the team here have done a great job in keeping the race going and making it fun for the competitors,” Rodney ends.
Riders from CPW occupied the second and third podium spots. Californian Quinn Cody made sure Rod watched over his shoulder all week, but in the end was 36 minutes short. “Last leg was a little scary because I had a herd of sheep follow after me at the sixty kilometre mark. I then punctured the front fuel tank with a stick which caused the bike to surge,” said Quinn.
“I didn’t come with any expectations and I’m happy with second for sure. I’m looking forward to getting to now have a sleep in.”
The third place position also was claimed by navigational rally newcomer, Ian Blythe. “Glad I made it. Got a little lucky today and was able to follow Quinn out of his navigational error. They fixed the bike yesterday by giving it a smaller sprocket, which allowed it to achieve a higher top speed,” said Ian.
Ian won the Dakar Challenge, giving him free entry into the 2015 Dakar. “I’m glad I had it together! The team would have been annoyed if I’d lost a three hour lead!”
DMC was another team which ended up with a successful 2014 Safari, with rider Adam Clay taking out fourth position and also the Ivan Erceg award. Gavin Cullen from the team came fifth and Paul Nappy came sixth.
West Australian Heath Young from Legends Quad Services managed to recover from his injuries in time to start the final leg and finish the event in third place.
John Iuliano had a good run in the last leg and was rewarded with second place. “Really easy at the start, just wanted to get it in! I pushed when I got to the fence lines, I like those spots,” said John.
“I set out to put the Scrambler on the podium and we’ve achieved that. I feel really good because of that bike, no achey muscles.”
It was John Maragozidis day though, taking out top podium position in the Quad category, after just missing out last year. “Last year I was fast, but not spot on. This year I was slower but spot on, and it paid off,” said John.
“The quad is a beast. She could do another Safari I reckon. I built it for Dakar, but they changed the rules and she no longer qualifies.”