Condobolin's Jacob Smith was runner-up in last year's Australasian Safari, but the factory Yamaha rider has his sights set firmly on the top step of the podium in 2008. Having made his debut in Australia's toughest motorsport challenge in 2007,...
Condobolin's Jacob Smith was runner-up in last year's Australasian Safari, but the factory Yamaha rider has his sights set firmly on the top step of the podium in 2008.
Having made his debut in Australia's toughest motorsport challenge in 2007, Smith says he has the bike, the team and the preparation behind him to take victory in this year's event, despite an accident that has left him broken and bruised.
Nineteen year-old Smith crashed his Yamaha in the first round of the NSW Motorcross Championship, breaking his collarbone and a leg, but has since been on the road to recovery. He says he is nearly back to full fitness.
"I've been doing lots of mountain bike riding and road cycling, and have managed to maintain my physical fitness," Smith says. "I've got no pain at all now, and I'm confident of being in great shape for the Safari."
Smith will ride a brand new Yamaha WR450 in the Safari, with the Yamaha team doing plenty of development on the bike in the lead up to the August 23 start. The engine and suspension have been improved, giving the bike more power and a greater top speed for the straights that competitors in the Safari will have to negotiate.
Smith's brother, Todd, will also ride for Yamaha in the Australasian Safari, but Jacob rates his toughest rival as last year's winner, Ben Grabham.
"There's lots of riders who will be fast, but Ben (Grabham) will be the one to beat," he says. "My brother, Todd, will also be quick, and there's a bunch of Condobolin locals who'll be fast as well."
Covering over 4000 kilometres, the Safari is a long, tough and arduous event, and Smith knows that it will once again be testing. "The long stages are a challenge, and the combination of having to navigate while you ride, the mental toughness you need and the fact that you have to do it day after day, means that it's not an easy event," he says.
"Reading the maps as you ride takes a lot of concentration, and I'm very grateful that I have a team to work on my bike at the end of each day, rather than have to work on it myself, as the privateer riders have to do."
Smith's advantage over his competitors could well be his navigation skills, something that he has learned quickly in these events. "Being able to ride fast while navigating is something I seem to be able to do fairly easily, and hopefully that will give me an edge over the others.
"I've got a lot of confidence from finishing second last year, and I'm definitely entering this year's Safari with the goal of winning. Our bikes will be a lot better this year, I have the mental toughness to last the distance, and my fitness will be okay, so we're hopeful of a victory in 2008."
Although most will expect dry and dusty conditions for the seven-day Australasian Safari, Smith doesn't mind what conditions he has to ride in.
"I actually don't mind the wet, although it's physically harder to ride a heavy bike in muddy conditions," he explains. "But having said that, dust can also be a problem if it's dry.
"You run the risk of hitting something (like a tree) in the dust, getting lost, or even colliding with another competitor, so you need to be right on your game no matter what the conditions are."
Smith plans to start the event at a fast past, knowing full well that time lost early in the event can be very difficult to make up as the event wears on.
After starting in the goldmining city of Kalgoorlie on Saturday, August 23, the Australasian Safari visits Sandstone, Meekatharra, Mt Magnet and Geraldton, before finishing in Perth on Saturday, August 30.