US star to debut Hummer at Safari
One of the United States' best endurance racers, Josh Hall, has confirmed his participation in this year's Australasian Safari in one of the world's iconic off-road vehicles.
The likeable US driver is set to make huge impact as he tackles the gruelling 3,600 kilometre course in the West Australian outback in his massive Hummer H2 SUT. It is the first time that the legendary American four-wheel drive brand will have taken part in the event.
Hall heads up a strong field of international competitors for the rally that gets underway in Western Australia on August 1.
A four-time winner of the acclaimed Baja 1000 event, held on Mexico's Baja California Peninsula, Hall is a big name in off-road racing in the US.
The son of off-road racing legend Rod Hall, he won five races in the USA in 2008 and took home the BITD class championships in his Hummer H2 SUT. He now has his sights set on Australasia's biggest off-road event.
"At the top of my expectation list is to learn what it takes in order to be competitive in this event in the future," Hall said.
"As a rookie, I firmly understand the challenge of just finishing such a crew/vehicle/driver and navigator taxing motorsport event. Our goals are to finish, learn, and be a part of the community of Australian off-road racing."
The American has heard a lot about the Safari, and can't wait for the event to get underway.
"I started looking at participating in an international endurance event about nine months ago. But I kept coming back to the Safari. It's run in a country that doesn't have land mines lining the race course, the citizenry speaks English and the event organisers have a first class reputation.
"Add to that my genuine desire to be there and I knew this would be the event for me."
Hall's 6.2 litre Hummer is not eligible to run for outright honours in the event, as event regulations limit the engine capacity to 6 litres. However, the big Hummer will run in a special International Promotional Category, with an official assault on the event planned for 2010.
"CAMS regulations limit the engine size to 6.0 litres, but next year's Hummer will be 5.7 litres, so the Americans plan on for a real crack at the title in 2010," Event Director, Justin Hunt, said.
"It's fantastic to have Josh Hall and his Hummer at the event, and with the car having been purchased by Western Australian Greg Knowles, it will stay in Australia after the Safari, which is great news for off-road racing in this country."
While this will be Hall's first event in Australia, his father, Rod, contested the 1979 Repco Reliability Trial will fellow American Steve Mizel. Driving a Chevy Blazer, the pair finished the three-week event in 12th place.
Nevertheless, he believes his Hummer will be up to the challenge of some of Australia's toughest, and roughest, tracks.
"Not knowing what the Australian conditions really are - my only source of information is last year's event DVD - I am going to ignorantly say that our H2SUT should be well suited for this type of event," Hall adds.
"The race truck is a proven winner in the States. It is extremely reliable, comfortable to be in, and works very well in all types of terrain."
After four Baja 1000 victories, he's confident that the experience of the tough Mexican event will stand him in good stead in the WA outback.
"In Baja, the course its self is the great equaliser. It favors no one except those that make the fewest mistakes. That race has taught me patience, persistence, tenacity and to expect the unexpected. I have also learned when to hold back and when to move to the front.
"Of course it is also a very physically and mentally demanding race, so that experience won't hurt at all. While Baja is not the Safari, it is an experience I will draw from in the decision making during this event."
This year's Australasian Safari begins in the Western Australian capital, Perth, with a prologue on Saturday, August 1. The event proper starts the following day.
Auto, motorbike and quad bike competitors then face over 3,600 kilometres of competition over seven days. The Safari will have overnight stops in Geraldton, Mt Magnet, Leonora and Laverton, before finishing in the gold mining city of Kalgoorlie on Saturday, August 8.
International entries have already been received from the USA, China, Sweden, South Africa, Japan, New Zealand and the Czech Republic, enhancing the event's reputation as one of the world's toughest, and most respected, motorsport events.