Penultimate day tests Safari’s men and their machines
— Stage wins for Faggotter, Cummings and Todd Smith
— Cummings set for Dakar Challenge win
Competitors arrived in Kalbarri tired and battle weary but happy with today’s penultimate Leg of the Australasian Safari – 429km through cattle country, along the Murchison River and finishing at Murchison House by the stunning Kalbarri National Park.
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.
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.”
Tomorrow 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. First bikes are expected at 11.45am local time with podium presentations from 1pm. Full details are available on the spectator page at www.australasiansafari.com.au.
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.
Moto Overall Standings after leg six
- Jake Smith – Honda – 24:17:16
- Warren Strange – Honda – 24:46:16
- Ryan Ingram – KTM – 26:53:18
- Brett Cummings – Honda – 27:10:28
- Paul Nappy – Honda – 27:58:35
- Jamie Chittick – Honda – 28:01:05
— GHR Honda Report
At the end of Leg 6 – the penultimate day of the Australasian Safari and the last long day of racing – GHR Honda’s Jacob Smith is closing in on a second Safari victory. For the last two days Smith has been riding a defensive race, with team mate Warren Strange less than 30 minutes behind. The 429km course retraced some ground covered in Leg 2 but this time in reverse, and the riders found markedly changed road conditions since their first passage on Monday. American rider Mike Johnson is reportedly doing well after his crash yesterday.
Jacob Smith: “Today I did what I had to do. I struggled to get into it early on, but I remained careful. I really wasn’t riding flat out anywhere, but at the one point I when was riding hard there was a seriously close encounter with an emu. It was nearly race over after it appeared from nowhere and brushed the front wheel and my leg as I passed by. Scary stuff, but other than that I had a clear run. Tomorrow morning we have an 18km section and then a reverse of the first stage as we run back to Geraldton. I still have to get through the day but we’re so close.”
Paul Smith: “I had a real go in the first stage. It was just like a roller coaster ride so I loved it. Up and over the crests of hills and then down into sandy corners, this is was plain good fun. I caught up with Heath Young who started in front of me. He had an issue with his starter motor in the second stage, but my lead was so secure that I spent the day riding with him and tow starting him. I rode behind him just in case he needed help. In the third stage I started to hear a noise in the rear end of the bike so we switched roles, him riding behind to watch out for me. We worked with each other and enjoyed the ride. I know nobody is going to break my lead by out riding me and we’re happy with our positions. After all the ground we’ve covered we want us both to finish and that’s why this event is so good.”
Brett Cummings: “The first and the second stages were really good for me. I’d caught up to 4th outright and I was determined not to take any chances. I was concerned about some engine noise at the 100km mark in the last stage so I crossed my fingers and toes and rode gently to the end. The route is certainly rougher now, but it was cleared out having had the cars down it earlier in the race. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Leg 7 will bring the riders home to the finish line in Geraldton via two short beach sprints once they leave Kalbarri.