The legendary Australasian Safari has gathered new momentum following the success of the 2008 running of the event, and looks set for a bright future in its Western Australian home base.
Competitor feedback has confirmed the event's status as the region's toughest endurance motorsport test, with many comparisons to the renowned Paris Dakar being made by the experienced international competitors.
This year's event started in Kalgoorlie and finished, after nearly 3000 competitive kilometres and seven days of gruelling competition, in the state's capital, Perth.
While details of the 2009 course are yet to be revealed, the event will be held in the Goldfields, Gascoyne and Coral Coast areas of the state from Saturday, August 1st until Saturday, August 8th.
According to Event Director, Justin Hunt, the response from competitors to the changes made to this year's event have ensured a strong future for the Australasian Safari in 2009 and beyond.
"The 2008 event was extremely well received, and we expect to see significant growth in competitor numbers in 2009," Hunt said.
"This year's course was a real test of endurance, skill and courage, and the drivers and riders loved the challenge."
"It seems the tougher we made it, the more they enjoyed it."
"We've already identified some awesome terrain for 2009, which I'm sure will further enhance the reputation of the event."
One of Australia's most experienced racing drivers, Tony Quinn, was full of superlatives for the Australasian Safari, despite retiring from the event.
"What an extreme event," Quinn said. "I didn't go to school for long enough to learn sufficient words to best describe the event - brutal and phenomenal are the two words that come to mind."
"The bug has bitten. I can't wait to have another crack," he added.
AFL legend, Tony Lockett, also competed in the Australasian Safari for the first time, riding a motorbike for the factory Honda team. Lockett finished mid-field in the event, and loved every minute of it.
"It was long days and it was good to finish, but I had a ball," Lockett said.
Asked if he would be competing again next year, Lockett added: "My word."
Victorian Sue McCready, who co-drove Des Harrington to second place in the auto division in 2008, is making plans for next year too.
"It was the toughest event I've ever done, but also the most beautiful," McCready said.
"I expected sand, dust and repetitive stages. I got sand, dust, trees, wildflowers, native animals, and a bit of history to boot. I've seen the rabbit proof fence, the Carnarvon Ranges, emus in the wild and water holes in the most unlikely of places.
"Teamwork has never been as important in an event as it was in the Australasian Safari. The driver, the navigator, the car and the service crew must all work together like a well lubricated machine to be successful.
"I came home exhausted, bruised, mentally drained and with orange dust in everything. Would I do it again? In a heart beat," she added.
The high number of competitive kilometres versus road section distance was popular amongst competitors, and is just one of many reasons that organisers expect larger entry numbers in 2009.
"The response from overseas competitors has already been very encouraging," Hunt said.
"Our YouTube page has been very popular, and through their own blog, competitors in the event have given us some of our best publicity."
2008 saw a dedicated class for Quad bikes, which proved popular, despite limited entry numbers. A significant competitor increase is expected next year, with many riders already stating their intentions to enter.
Eventscorp Executive Director David van Ooran said he anticipates another successful Australasian Safari next year.
"We have received some positive feedback about this year's event and look forward to learning more about what is in store for 2009.
"I'm told the planned areas for 2009 contain some excellent competitive roads which I'm sure will whet the adventurous appetite of many competitors," Mr van Ooran said.
Expressions of interest for the 2009 Australasian Safari will open in November, and prospective competitors are encouraged to get their entries in early to guarantee a start in the event and to take advantage of the early bird entry discounts.