Australian Safari Rally - Thursday, August 23
Day 5: Wycliffe Well-Top Springs
Total distance: 852km. Competitive distance: 489km (4 stages)
Touring car legend Peter Brock remained in contention for a top-three podium finish in the 4,426km Australian Safari international cross country rally, despite hitting a tree and a rock in the Northern Territory today.
The nine-times Bathurst 1000 champion escaped injury, but his Holden Rally Team Jackaroo suffered damage to bars, panels, and a wheel from the two separate incidents in the 852km fifth stage from Wycliffe Well to Top Springs, held in sweltering conditions.
Brock's Jackaroo was hastily repaired and he was able to complete the stage. He retained fourth position in the Auto Division for four-wheel-drive vehicles and is 1-hr 1-min 22-secs adrift of Safari leader and Holden team-mate Bruce Garland, who remains in first place with an overall time of 20-hrs 6-mins 36-secs.
"I didn't see the tree because of dust and the impact from the hit knocked the front bar upwards and bent some panels," said Brock. "Then we hit a rock and damaged a wheel, but fortunately we were able to straighten things out at the service stop and keep going. This could have been a lot worse and we could have lost a lot of time. Maybe it's a good omen, and we're still in with a crack at finishing on the podium in Darwin on Sunday. There's little over an hour between the top four, which is nothing in these types of long-distance races."
Victorian Stephen Riley, who finished runner-up in the Moto Division of the Safari six times between 1985-99 on Honda machinery, continued his impressive debut in the event on four wheels by retaining second position in a Mitsubishi Pajero, 27-mins 17-secs behind Garland. The 38-year-old dairy farmer said he was surprised at his performance considering his inexperience in the Auto Division.
"We're running a standard engine and gearbox, which means we don't have the speed of some of the others, but we have had very good reliability," said Riley. "I tried for years and years to win this race on bikes, and never quite made it. Now we're getting ourselves in a fantastic position and if I could win it would be unbelievable."
South Australia's Andrew Caldecott, riding a KTM 660 Rallye, maintained his consistency in the Moto Division to extend his lead over Honda-mounted Northern Territory rider Stephen Greenfield. Caldecott's overall time is 19-hrs 10-mins 21-secs, and he leads Greenfield by 36-mins 16-secs.
Greenfield conceded that he would probably need 2000 champion Caldecott to either crash, or suffer mechanical problems to close the gap.
"I'm going as hard as I can without crashing, but Andy (Caldecott) is that little bit quicker each day and the time is building up," said Greenfield. "All I can do is hang in there and ride as well as I can and try to maintain the pressure. I'm riding as smooth as I can and following the maps closely."
Further back in the field, only 39-secs separate the battle for fifth place between NSW's Peter McDonald and Victorian Michael Carey, both riding Honda XR650 machines, and Jamie O'Neill of the Northern Territory on a Yamaha WR400.
Dubai-based Briton Steven Blackney dropped from fifth out of the top 10 after crashing his Honda XR650. After he fell his machine was run over and badly damaged by the fast-following Nissan Patrol Ute of Victorian Des Harrington. Blackney was not injured.
The Safari continues tomorrow with a 627km stage from Top Springs to Douglas Daly.
OVERALL POSITIONS (after Day 5 - Thursday, August 23):
POS DRIVERS VEHICLE TIME
1. B. Garland (NSW)-H. Suzuki (NSW) Holden Jackaroo 20:06.36
2. S. Riley (Vic)-J. Doble (NSW) Mitsubishi Pajero 20:33.53
3. R. Nicastri (NSW)-S. Green (NSW) Nissan Patrol 20:40.59
4. P. Brock (Vic)-W. Webster (NSW) Holden Jackaroo 21:07.58
5. B. Muir (NT)-A. Muir (NT) Nissan Patrol 21:30.25
6. D. Harringon (Vic)-B. Bennett (Vic) Nissan Patrol Ute 21:34.27
7. W. Ridge (NSW)-J. Ridge (NSW) Mitsubishi Pajero 22:08.33
8. T. Denham (NSW)-M. Denham (NSW) Mitsubishi Pajero 22:34.10
9. P. Lockhart (Qld)-T. Donovan (Qld) Mitsubishi Pajero 22:40.06
10. S. Bates (SA)-D. Ahola (SA) Mitsubishi Triton 25:13.56
POS RIDER MOTORCYCLE TIME
1. A. Caldecott (SA) KTM 660 Rallye 19:10.21
2. S. Greenfield (NT) Honda XR650 19:46.37
3. A. Coaker (Qld) KTM 660 Rallye 20:45.06
4. C. McCoy (U.S.) Honda XR650 21:16.55
5. P. MacDonald (NSW) Honda XR650 22:11.13
6. M. Carey (Vic) Honda XR650 22:11.48
7. J. O'Neill (NT) Yamaha WR400 22:11.52
8. T. Fitzhardinge (WA) KTM 660 Rallye 22:18.31
9. C. Ross (NT) KTM 640 22:23.00
10. D. Schwarz (SA) Yamaha WR250 22:54.33