AUSTRALIAN SAFARI RALLY - Monday, August 20
DAY 2 REPORT: Ayers Rock Resort-Kings Creek
Total distance: 376km. Competitive distance: 263km (2 stages)
NICASTRI TAKES LEAD IN AUSTRALIAN SAFARI
Former Australian speedway champion Ross Nicastri today became the new leader in the 4,426km Australian Safari international cross country rally through the Northertn Territory and at the same time erased the disappointment of crashing on the same stage in 2000 when in first place.
The 40-year-old from Sydney took the lead in the Auto Division for four-wheel-drive vehicles by completing the second stage from Ayers Rock Resort to Kings Creek with an overall time of 8-hrs and 59-secs in a Nissan Patrol. He holds and advantage of 3-mins 50-secs over second-placed Mitsubishi Pajero driver Terry Denham, who is followed by Sydney's Bruce Garland in a Holden Rally Team Jackaroo.
Nicastri began the second stage over 376km in second position and trailing Victorian Des Harrington in a Nissan Patrol Ute by 52-secs. Harrington dropped back to sixth after a 12-mins penalty was imposed on him for exceeding the allocated service stop time at Curtin Springs when replacing a differential.
Speaking at Kings Creek, Nicastri said that he was pleased to have taken the lead after crashing when he hit a bore on the second stage on the Safari 12 months ago. He has raced in the Safari four times with a best result of fourth in 1996.
"On the same stage last year we rolled the vehicle and we were flat-out trying to fix it up again," said Nicastri. "This time I made sure we didn't hit anything. In fact I was probably a little over-cautious for a while. Then I missed a turn so I got stuck into it again and we managed to pull some time on Terry (Denham). We didn't do as much preparation as in past years, but so far everything has gone to plan."
Garland, the defending champion who began the stage fifth, improved two positions after passing the Nissan Patrol of Victorian Reg Owen, and taking maximum advantage of Harrington's problems.
In the Moto Division, 2000 Safari winner Andrew Caldecott extended his lead to 11-mins 37-secs after clocking the fastest time of 1-hr 57-mins 10-secs on the stage on his KTM 660 Rallye. He has an overall time of 7-hrs 46-mins 43-secs.
Northern Territory rider Stephen Greenfield retained second position, and fellow-Honda racer Casey McCoy of the United States remained third, but both lost time to Caldecott.
"In the first couple of days I wanted to put a gap on the others and it's good to have done that because I don't have to deal with as much dust," said Caldecott. "Stephen (Greenfield), in particular, has been pushing me so I've probably had to ride harder than I wanted to. I lost some time early in the stage, but then I had a good run through the mostly unused tracks and the flowing turns. Importantly I didn't have a puncture in the couple of nasty rocky places."
Greenfield, the Safari winner in 1999, fell during the stage attempting to counter Caldecott's speed.
"I had to put the bike down on its side to avoid going into a swamp, and it wasn't one of my better days," said Greenfield. "Andy (Caldecott) is getting good speed from his bike and I can't ride any harder or I'll start over-shooting the turns and losing more time."
Briton Steve Blackney dropped from sixth to eighth after losing almost 25-mins against the front-runners with a tyre problem before the service stop. German Thomas Hoepfner was knocked unconscious when he crashed his KTM, but was not injured and resumed riding after a short break.
The Safari continues tomorrow with a 682km stage from Kings Creek to Tilmouth Well.
OVERALL POSITIONS (after Day 2 - Monday, August 20):
POS DRIVERS VEHICLE TIME
1. R. Nicastri (NSW)-S. Green (NSW) Nissan Patrol 8:00.59
2. T. Denham (NSW)-M. Denham (NSW) Mitsubishi Pajero 8:04.49
3. B. Garland (NSW)-H. Suzuki (NSW) Holden Jackaroo 8:07.12
4. R. Owen (Vic)-R. Cairns (Vic) Nissan Patrol 8:14.04
5. B. Muir (NT)-A. Muir (NT) Nissan Patrol 8:23.36
6. D. Harringon (Vic)-B. Bennett (Vic) Nissan Patrol Ute 8:24.09
7. S. Riley (Vic)-J. Doble (NSW) Mitsubishi Pajero 8:28.07
8. P. Brock (Vic)-J. Brock (Vic) Holden Jackaroo 8:45.47
9. T. Pinson (NSW)-R. Lewis (NSW) Mitsubishi Pajero 8:48.29
10. R. Gambino (NSW)-D. Lowe (NSW) Suzuki Grand Vitara 8:50.38
POS RIDER MOTORCYCLE TIME
1. A. Caldecott (SA) KTM 660 Rallye 7:46.43
2. S. Greenfield (NT) Honda XR650 7:58.20
3. C. McCoy (U.S.) Honda XR650 8:10.09
4. T. Tervoert (SA) Husqvarna TE6 8:36.56
5. A. Coaker (Qld) KTM 660 Rallye 8:44.35
6. P. MacDonald (NSW) Honda XR650 9:05.39
7. T. Fitzhardinge (WA) KTM 660 Rallye 9:12.45
8. S. Blackney (GB) Honda XR650 9:14.35
9. M. Carey (Vic) Honda XR650 9:15.02
10. J. O'Neill (NT) Yamaha WR400 9:16.50