The Australasian Safari has been won by Todd Smith (moto), Steve Riley and co-driver John Doble (auto) and John Maragozidis (quad), each managing to push through seven days of incredibly challenging terrain and distances testing their mental and physical stamina.
Photos by Sabine Albers and Keith Hedgeland
Todd Smith on a Honda CRF450X took out the moto prize, leading the race since Leg 2. The 26-year old Australian has finally made it to first place after finishing second in both 2010 and 2009, winning by 20 minutes over his brother Jacob Smith on Honda in second place and Rod Faggotter on Yamaha, coming in at 28 hours 40 minutes in third place.
Todd had a dream run this week, taking out his first Safari after three other attempts and racing with his favourite competitor, brother Jacob who won the Safari in 2009. “It’s a great feeling, I’ve been chasing this for a few years and it’s my fourth attempt at Safari.”
Victorians Steve Riley and John Doble from the Cairns Coconut Resort Race Team have taken a cautious approach this week, which has helped them win a trifecta of Australasian Safaris – 2011, 2009 and 2008.
They had a lucky break in Leg 5 when V8 Supercar legend and last year’s winner Craig Lowndes rolled the Holden Colorado in its side, putting him out of contention for the podium.
“My team are legends, I couldn’t have done it without them. We are close-knot and this is the result we have been looking for,” Riley said. “I’ve been aiming for this all year.”
The Mitsubishi wins continued when West Australians John Purshouse and David McShane in a Mitsubishi Triton took second place in their first Australasian Safari and made their first significant podium finish in a rally event. “I’m ecstatic. It s new vehicle and hadn’t been tested until Safari,” Purshouse said. “We are first time Safari entrants and absolutely thrilled to take second place. We couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Fellow Sandgropers Adrian Dilallo and Rob Masi placed third in their production-class Mitsubishi Pajero Evo, a move up the ladder from sixth place in 2010. “We’re really pleased, it’s like getting to the never-ending finish line. It’s an awesome feeling especially with Lowndes trying to catch us,” Dilallo said.
Experienced quad rider and 2009 Australasian Safari winner South Australian organic almond farmer John Maragozidis won comfortably, about four hours ahead of Colin Lawson who lost nine hours in penalties in Leg 4 after mechanical failure, and Neville Yeatman finishing in third place. “It feels bloody good. Today was cool. The first half I took it easy and then got excited and just went for it. It’s just starting to sink in,” he said.
Ninety competitors started the Australasian Safari seven days ago on the coast in Geraldton, Western Australia in auto, moto, quad and non-competitive Adventure Tour category. Today, 69 competitors and adventure tour participants crossed the finish line and they are all winners for making it through 4000km of harsh outback terrain which threw everything at them – rocks, soft sand, mud, trees, severely rutted ground from recent rains, barely visible tracks and tricky navigation.
Australasian Safari 2012 is scheduled for 21 to 29 September 2012 in outback Western Australia.