THURSDAY, JULY 19: American Casey McCoy, runner-up in the 2000 Australian Safari, is switching to a more powerful Honda in a bid to win the Moto Division of this year's international cross country rally through the Northern Territory. The ...
THURSDAY, JULY 19: American Casey McCoy, runner-up in the 2000 Australian Safari, is switching to a more powerful Honda in a bid to win the Moto Division of this year's international cross country rally through the Northern Territory.
The 35-year-old Californian confirmed today he would contest this year's 4,300km event from August 19-26 on a Honda XR650 prepared by Sydney-based Team Wombat Motorcycles.
McCoy made a stunning Safari debut in 2000 by finishing second on a Team Wombat Honda XR400 behind South Australian Andy Caldecott, riding a KTM 660 Rallye.
"Moving up to the (Honda) XR650 this year will give me another 20-km/h in top speed, and that's where I lost out to the KTM and the other bigger bikes on the flat-out stages last time," said McCoy.
"The extra speed and horsepower I'll now have will save me up to 15-minutes on the long sections and that could be the difference between winning and losing, plus the Honda is lighter than the KTM."
"This a tough race and the competition will be stronger this year, but the bigger bike will put us on equal terms with the others and it should give us a better shot at going for the win."
McCoy's preparation for the Safari, which will be held over a course from Alice Springs to Darwin, has included lengthy training stints on a Honda XR650 in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, near Yosemite National Park, where he is general manager of a ski lodge.
"I've been riding about 1,000km a week for the past couple of months on an XR650 to get used to the bike, and it's also good physical preparation," he said. "Most of the terrain around here is rocky and tight, and there are some sandy hills."
"In the last few weeks before coming to Australia I'm going to do some simulated rallies to get used to riding and reading maps at the same time again, which I haven't done since last year's Safari."
McCoy said he felt the experience he gained by competing in the 2000 Safari would assist him in this year's event, which is also a round of the Federation Internationale Motocycliste (FIM) cross country rallies World Cup series.
"There's been some changes to the course, but this time I know what to expect with the type of terrain we're racing on, and the conditions," he said.
McCoy said that after he arrived in Alice Springs before the start of the Safari, he and Team Wombat crew chief Gary Williams would fine-tune the suspension of the Honda XR650.
"We'll do a little testing to get the suspension to my liking, and like last year I'm sure the Team Wombat guys will give me the best possible equipment and support," he said.
"The preparation of my bike last time was faultless, and we couldn't have hoped for a better result with what we had. I had the little XR400 pretty-much wound up the whole way and it ran great."
McCoy, who raced motocross in the 1980s before switching to endurance events and rallying, is part of a star-studded Honda line-up in this year's Safari.
The 1999 Safari winner Stephen Greenfield, from the Northern Territory, and former 500cc grand prix rider Daryl Beattie will also ride Honda XR650s, prepared by Glenn Hoffmann Racing.
The Safari also includes the Auto Division for off-road four-wheel-drive vehicles, and a new Rally Division for cars and lightweight four-wheel-drive vehicles. The Auto Division entries include defending champion Bruce Garland in a new Holden Jackaroo, and fellow-NSW driver Terry Denham, runner-up in 2000, in a Mitsubishi Pajero.
The Northern Territory Government is supporting the Safari for the third successive year. The event is owned and produced by Octagon Worldwide, the sports marketing and entertainment division of the Interpublic Group, one of the world's largest marketing and communications groups.