WEDNESDAY, JULY 26: Competitors in next month's Australian Safari international cross-country rally will cover more than 4,000km over eight days on a course announced today.
The route for the 15th Safari for four-wheel-drive vehicles and motorcycles was released by the event's Competition Director and Clerk of Course Bob Carpenter, who finalised details after a 10-week trip inspecting terrain through the Northern Territory.
Carpenter said the total distance of the course from Alice Springs to Darwin from August 20-27 would be 4,067km, including 2,422km in 24 competitive stages.
The event starts in Todd Mall in Alice Springs and finishes on Mindil Beach in Darwin, and the longest competitive stage is 468km from Alice Springs to Curtain Springs on August 21.
Carpenter said this year's course was 300km shorter than in 1999, but included a higher percentage of competitive stages.
"We're going through many of the same areas as before, although the competitors will be covering different tracks compared to '99," he said.
"The Safari is traditionally Australia's ultimate endurance test for man and machine, and this year will be no different with a variety of terrain and conditions to challenge the competitors."
"I'd say this year's course is slightly tougher because the 'wet season' has damaged the roads and there are more 'ruts' and gutters to deal with."
"When we made the course we were mindful of striking a balance between what is required for the really serious competitors, and also the enthusiasts."
Carpenter said heavy rainfall had been the main problem in finalising the Safari route during his trip through the Northern Territory in a Toyota Landcruiser.
"We covered the course twice, visiting every single property owner and town the Safari goes through, and there are areas where they've had up to eight times the normal rainfall for the year," he said.
"I lost count of the number of times we got 'bogged' in the mud, but conditions will dry out by the time the Safari comes around."
During Carpenter's trip he also met with police and representatives of the Northern Territory Department of Transport and Works and secured the appropriate permit approvals for the use of roads on some sections of the course.
"Everyone was extremely co-operative and general public interest in the Safari seems to be the best ever judging by the people we spoke to on our trip," said Carpenter.
Entries for this year's Safari include former 500cc motorcycle world champion Kevin Schwantz, riding a Suzuki DR-Z400 in the Moto Division, and defending Auto Division title-holder Bruce Garland in a Holden Jackaroo.
The Safari is promoted by Octagon Motorsport, and is backed by the Northern Territory Government. The event is also sanctioned by the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), and the Federation Internationale Motocycliste (FIM).
<pre> 2000 AUSTRALIAN SAFARI COURSE
AUGUST 20: Alice Springs-Ross River-Alice Springs Length: total 329km; competitive 242km (4 stages)
AUGUST 21: Alice Springs-Curtain Springs Length: total 632km; competitive 468km (3 stages)
AUGUST 22: Curtain Springs-Alice Springs Length: total 562km; competitive 392km (3 stages)
AUGUST 23: Alice Springs-Wycliffe Well Length: total 665km; competitive 431 (3 stages)
AUGUST 24: Wycliffe Well-Top Springs Length: total 805km; competitive 402km (4 stages)
AUGUST 25: Top Springs-Katherine Length: total 552km; competitive 329km (2 stages)
AUGUST 26: Katherine-Darwin Length: total 519km; competitive 155km (4 stages)
AUGUST 27: Darwin/Mindil Beach Sprint Length: total 3km; competitive 3km (1 stage)
TOTAL LENGTH: 4,067km COMPETITIVE LENGTH: 2,422km STAGES: 24
Mike Porter email@example.com