The Northern Territory Government today confirmed its commitment to the Australian Safari international cross-country motorsport rally for the next three years, thus securing the event for the Territory into the New Millennium.
The 2000 Safari from August 20-27 will be fully sanctioned by the world controlling Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (F.I.A.) and Federation Internationale Motocycliste (F.I.M.). The event is for four-wheel-drive vehicles and motorcycles.
Defending champion Bruce Garland, who has competed in the prestigious Paris-Dakar international race, believes that the revised and upgraded course for the 2000 Safari will be as exciting and challenging as any off-road enduro in the world.
Garland, outright auto winner in 1999 in a Holden Jackaroo, commented today: "The format that the Octagon Motorsports (event promoters) team are planning to introduce this year is looking fantastic. Of course, I'll be defending the title in 2000. In the past the tracks have been a really good mix of tough and fast. I've done some interesting rallies - we did the Paris-Dakar, Dubai, and I still think the geography of the Territory is the most exciting there is."
Northern Territory Tourism Minister, the Hon. Mike Reed, said today: "On behalf of the people and business communities of the Northern Territory, we are delighted to commit our support to the Australian Safari for the next three years. It provides an outstanding showcase of the Northern Territory, our terrain, our towns, and our special way of life. The benefits to our communities from an economic perspective are significant and the Australian Safari is a very important piece of our tourism plan. I wish Octagon Motorsports every success and I look forward to watching the growth of this event in the years ahead."
Queenslander Bob Carpenter, who arguably knows more about off-road Australia than anyone else, will set the Safari course for the 14th time. In 1999 competitors faced over 2,800km in competitive stages, and many felt it was as testing as they had faced. Carpenter said the course for 2000 would be tougher still.
"I've been asked to tweak the course a little from last year," said Carpenter. "It will be tough, fair, and most of all fun."
At this stage the proposed course for 2000 will be from Alice Springs, through Tennant Creek and Katherine, to Darwin. In the past, the route from Alice Springs to Darwin provided some of the most exciting and challenging competitive stages in international cross-country rallying.
Northern Territory residents and spectators will see more competitors in an extended number of classes in the event in 2000. For the first time, vehicles eligible for the Australian Off-Road Championship will be eligible to race in the Safari. Quad racers will be introduced for the more adventurous, as the unique four-wheel bikes grow in popularity.
Stephen Greenfield, the 1999 moto winner on a factory Honda XR600, will also defend his title.
"This is the toughest event I've competed in, but by far the most satisfying and enjoyable," he said. "I'll definitely be back."
Octagon Motorsports Managing Director Steve Frazer said a number of spectacular events would surround the Safari.
"There will be a concert in Alice Springs the night before the first day of competition, a big closing event in Darwin, and special events in each town we pass through," said Frazer. "This is a very special event on the Northern Territory calendar of activities."
The economic benefits of the event for the Northern Territory will be considerable. In 2000 over 1,000 people will travel with the event as it passes through towns from Alice Springs to Darwin. However the greatest value of the event is the international exposure it provides for the Northern Territory. In 1999 the event was telecast to more than 500 million people worldwide, and in 2000 that figure will increase even further.