GREENFIELD & GARLAND DOMINATE SAFARI PROLOGUE
Northern Territory rider Stephen Greenfield and Holden Rally Team driver Bruce Garland dominated today's Prologue opening to the 4,426km Australian Safari international cross country rally from Alice Springs to Darwin.
Greenfield won the Prologue in the Moto Division by completing a 6km course near Alice Springs in 4-mins 20-secs on a Michelin-O'Neal Honda XR650. Garland, from NSW, emerged fastest in the Auto Division for four-wheel-drive vehicles with a time of 4-mins 18-secs in a works Holden Jackaroo.
They earned the right to start first in their respective divisions in tomorrow's opening stage over 775km from Alice Springs to Ayers Rock Resort.
Greenfield, who won the Safari's Moto Division in 1999, but missed the event 12 months ago because of injury, had previously raced on the same 6km Prologue course in this year's Finke Desert Race. The 32-year-old from Alice Springs finished 7-secs clear of second-placed South Australian Andrew Caldecott, the 2000 champion, on a KTM 660 Rallye.
"Riding the course a few times before may have helped a little, but to be honest I don't think it's that much of an advantage," said Greenfield. "Starting first is good because it means you don't have to eat everyone else's dust. However, sometimes it's better to be a few places back so you can follow the tracks of the riders in front of you. We'll wait and see how it turns out tomorrow."
Caldecott was delighted with the performance of his new Paris-Dakar specification KTM, which arrived in Australia from Austria earlier this month.
"We've only had the bike for just over a week and we haven't changed anything because it feels good just the way it is," said Caldecott. "The Prologue course was flowing with a few corners that tighten up and I think we did a good job. It's a long way to Darwin and I think we're going to be competitive."
Former 500cc grand prix rider Daryl Beattie made an encouraging off-road debut by finishing fourth fastest in the Prologue, 17-secs slower than Greenfield.
"I felt nervous, and when I got to the first corner I was confused with reading the map," said Beattie. "After that I decided to forget the map and just ride the course as I saw it. I felt good in some of the faster sections. I would have been happy with anywhere in the top 10 so I'm actually quite surprised to be as high up as I am."
Garland, who is chasing a record fourth Safari win with NSW team-mate Harry Suzuki, finished the Auto Division Prologue with an advantage of 9-secs over the Northern Territory combination of Bruce and Alex Muir in a Nissan Patrol.
"It's still early days, but we're in front and hopefully we're still there all the way to Darwin," said Garland. "The new Jackaroo we're running this year handles really well. We've got to pace ourselves and race hard when we have to, relative to where the opposition is coming from."
Victorian Reg Owen was third in the Prologue in another Nissan Patrol, while Garland's team-mate, nine-times Bathurst 1000 champion Peter Brock was eighth in a production-based Jackaroo. NSW's Ross Nicastri drove off the course during the Prologue, but recovered to finish seventh in a Nissan Patrol. <pre>
PROLOGUE RESULTS (Saturday, August 18):
MOTO DIVISION: POS RIDER MOTORCYCLE TIME 1. S. Greenfield (NT) Honda XR650 4:20 2. A. Caldecott (SA) KTM 660 Rallye 4:27 3. R. Hinton (Vic) Yamaha WR250 4:34 4. D. Beattie (Qld) Honda XR650 4:37 5= C. McCoy (U.S.) Honda XR650 4:40 5= T. Tervoert (SA) Husqvarna TE6 4:40 5= V. Springer (Tas) Honda XR650 4:40 8. P. MacDonald (NSW) Honda XR650 4:41 9. J. O'Neill (NT) Yamaha WR400 4:43 10. T. Konno (NSW) Kawasaki KLX650 4:49
AUTO DIVISION: POS DRIVERS VEHICLE TIME 1. B. Garland (NSW)-H. Suzuki (NSW) Holden Jackaroo 4:18 2. B. Muir (NT)-A. Muir (NT) Nissan Patrol 4:27 3. R. Owen (Vic)-R. Cairns (Vic) Nissan Patrol 4:28 4= T. Denham (NSW)-M. Denham (NSW) Mitsubishi Pajero 4:36 4= D. Harringon (Vic)-B. Bennett (Vic) Nissan Patrol Ute 4:36 6. S. Riley (Vic)-J. Doble (NSW) Mitsubishi Pajero 4:40 7. R. Nicastri (NSW)-S. Green (NSW) Nissan Patrol 4:44 8. P. Brock (Vic)-J. Brock (Vic) Holden Jackaroo 4:51 9. T. Pinson (NSW)-R. Lewis (NSW) Mitsubishi Pajero 4:56 10. P. Lockhart (Qld)-T. Donovan (Qld) Holden Jackaroo 4:57