AUSTRALIAN SAFARI RALLY - Sunday, August 25
DAY 1 REPORT: Bathurst-Condobolin, NSW
Total distance: 421km. Competitive distance: 123km (2 stages)

Brock battles back pain to finish third in first Australian Safari stage.

Touring car legend Peter Brock battled through persistent back pain to finish a creditable third in the Auto Division of today's opening stage of the Australian Safari international cross country rally through rural NSW.

The nine-times Bathurst 1000 champion was injured in a crash also involving speedway sprint car driver George Tatnell in a 'Legends Go-Kart' race in Darwin on Saturday evening.

Brock, who is driving a Holden Rally Team Jackaroo four-wheel-drive vehicle in the Safari, was unable to sleep on a flight to Sydney overnight because of pain, before travelling to Bathurst this morning for the start of the 4,375km rally.

The 57-year-old Victorian said he was in discomfort throughout the opening stage, which comprised two competitive sections totalling 123km between Bathurst and Condobolin.

Brock and navigator Wayne Webster clocked a time of 2-hrs 9-mins 30-secs, finishing 3-mins 55-secs behind the Nissan Patrol of John Hederics and Kees Weel, who finished first and will lead into tomorrow's 476km second stage from Condobolin to Griffith.

"This has been one of my most difficult days of motorsport, with a sore back and no sleep," said Brock. "I can feel every bump so I'm braking more than I should to stop the Jackaroo getting into the air. Today the course was all about staying neat and accurate and I drove accordingly."

"The accident in Darwin happened when George (Tatnell) spun in front of me and there was contact. I went 'end-over-end' and landed on my head."

"I went straight to hospital for x-rays and fortunately there were no broken bones, but my back was sore and I had muscle spasms. Things should get more comfortable each day from now on so we will press on and see what happens."

Hederics, from Mildura, won the Moto Division of the Safari six times in the 1990s and is aiming to become the first competitor to win the event on two and four wheels. His navigator Weel is the father of V8 Supercar driver Paul Weel.

Defending champion Bruce Garland was slowed by two punctures in his modified Jackaroo and recorded a time of 2-hrs 12-mins 5-secs.

"We towed a tree along under us for miles and miles," said Garland. "There was enough wood out there to keep Sydney supplied in firewood for the next 20 years!"

Condobolin's Paul Sinderberry, riding a Honda XR650, caused an upset in the Moto Division by beating the powerful team assembled by Austrian manufacturer KTM.

The 34-year-old farmer completed the stage in 1-hr 52-mins 36-secs, and leads 2000-2001 champion Andy Caldecott of South Australia on a KTM by 1-min 12-secs.

"I live near here and I recognised some of the tracks, but that doesn't mean you have a big advantage because you don't know where they're going and you still have to follow the maps," said Sinderberry.

"I concentrated really hard on navigation because I think I'm going to have to do well in the first couple of days in the tight stuff. The surface had a lot of ironbark with slippery gravel covering and it was difficult to get traction. The Honda is lighter than the KTMs, and it was excellent in these conditions."

Pre-race favourite Alfie Cox, who finished runner-up in this year's Paris-Dakar rally, slipped to eighth on a KTM after winning yesterday's Prologue in Bathurst. The 38-year-old from Durban said he had experienced problems with map-reading, different to the Global Positioning System he used in the Paris-Dakar.

"I had trouble reading the Australian maps so I followed some of the others home," said Cox. "There is still a long way to go and I'm going to work my way into it."

OVERALL POSITIONS (after Day 1 - Sunday, August 25):

AUTO DIVISION:
POS DRIVERS VEHICLE TIME
1. J. Hederics (Vic)-K. Weel (Qld) Nissan Patrol 2:05.35
2. A. Stott-M. Davies (Vic) Nissan Patrol 2:08.23
3. P. Brock (Vic)-W. Webster (NSW) Holden Jackaroo 2:09.30
4. P. Glennie-P. Clark (NSW) Toyota Series RV 2:11.32
5. B. Garland-H. Suzuki (NSW) Holden Jackaroo 2:12.05
6. S. Riley-J. Doble (Vic) Mitsubishi Pajero 2:13.06
7. W. Ridge-J. Ridge (NSW) Mitsubishi Pajero 2:14.20
8. R. Cremen-G. Comber (NSW) Mitsubishi Pajero 2:18.20
9. A. Brown-P. Styles (Vic) Holden Frontera 2:19.39
10. C. Hunter (Qld)-B. Humphrey (NSW) Jeep Wrangler 2:28.33

MOTO DIVISION:
POS RIDER MOTORCYCLE TIME
1. P. Sinderberry (NSW) Honda XR650 1:52.36
2. A. Caldecott (SA) KTM 660 Rallye 1:53.48
3. P. Lundmark (Sweden) KTM Rally Replica 2:00.33
4. C. McCoy (U.S.) Honda XR650 2:04.23
5. S. Greenfield (NT) Honda XR650 2:05.59
6. A. Haydon (SA) KTM 660 Rallye 2:06.37
7. R. Runnalls (Vic) Suzuki DR-Z400 2:07.20
8. A. Cox (Sth Africa) KTM 660 Rallye 2:07.28
9. P. Nelson (NSW) KTM 520EXC 2:07.57
10. T. Fitzhardinge (WA) KTM 660 Rallye 2:08.37

-www.australiansafari.com.au-