AUSTRALIAN SAFARI RALLY - Tuesday, August 27
DAY 3 REPORT: Griffith-Wentworth, NSW
Total distance: 770km. Competitive distance: 407km (2 stages)
FOUR ESCAPE INJURY IN HELICOPTER CRASH
Four people, including Australian Safari Clerk of Course Bob Carpenter, escaped injury in a helicopter crash near Griffith during today's third stage of the 4,375km international cross country rally through rural NSW.
However, A.C.T. motorcycle rider Tim Settle was later rushed to Mildura Hospital with a dislocated shoulder after falling from his KTM 400EXC and then being struck by the following Holden Rally Team Jackaroo driven by part-time V8 Supercar racer Nathan Pretty.
The Safari's official event Jet-Ranger Helicopter crashed and was badly damaged after making contact with a tree at a height of about 15m during the opening timed competitive section of the 770km stage between Griffith and Wentworth.
Those in the helicopter were Carpenter and pilot Peter Bird, both from Queensland's Gold Coast, Safari medical officer Dr Roger Warne of Stawell in Victoria, and Sydney cameraman Richard Rowley.
The accident happened when Rowley was filming the Jeep Wrangler driven by Queensland's Colin Hunter and the Nissan Patrol of NSW's Brendan Powers.
Carpenter said the accident happened after the rear of the helicopter clipped a tree.
"The rotor at the back hit the tree and it chopped the tail boom clean off," said Carpenter. "Then we went sideways and swung around and the main rotor hit the tree again."
"We were riding sideways toward the ground and somehow Peter (Bird) managed to straighten it up and luckily for us it landed on its 'skids'. The whole thing was over in less than 10-seconds, but it seemed longer."
"The pilot did a great job getting us down in one piece because it could have been much worse. This is the first time we've had any kind of accident with a 'chopper' since the Safari started (in 1985)."
Immediately after the accident event promoters Octagon sourced a replacement Robinson helicopter for use during the remainder of the stage.
Octagon's Motorsport General Manager Craig Fletcher said that a helicopter was required to be operational during the event to comply with safety regulations.
"We were able to activate our back-up plan quickly and efficiently with another helicopter, and get things underway with a delay of about 20-minutes," said Fletcher.
Settle, who began the stage second in the International Moto Competition, had medical treatment minutes after being injured in the second competitive section and was administered pain-killers. He was then taken to hospital by an NSW Ambulance Service vehicle for x-rays and was tonight in a stable condition.
Carpenter, who resumed his duties immediately after the helicopter crash, said that it had not yet been established whether Settle would be able to continue in the Safari tomorrow.
"As we understand it he (Settle) fell from his bike and there was a cloud of dust," said Carpenter. "Unfortunately the vehicle following him couldn't see anything because of the dust and accidentally clipped his shoulder."
Defending champion and four-times Safari winner Bruce Garland retained the lead in the Auto Division for four-wheel-drive vehicles and has an overall time of 9-hrs 38-mins 40-secs. He has an advantage of 13-mins 12-secs over the Cashcard Mitsubishi Pajero driven by Victoria's Steve Riley going into tomorrow's fourth stage over 421km from Wentworth to Broken Hill.
Riley, a 38-year-old farmer from Leongatha, said the 2002 course was vastly different to previous years when the Safari was held in the Northern Territory.
"There are more trees and other things to hit if you run off the tracks this year," said Riley. "We are staying out of trouble and going as hard as we can. Things are going to plan so far. Our preparation was very thorough and that's being shown with the reliability of our vehicle."
"From here we will just keep on doing the same things, and perhaps push on harder over the last day or two if we have to. Once again Bruce (Garland) looks hard to beat, but if we can put some pressure on then anything is possible."
Multiple Bathurst 1000 champion Peter Brock is 12th in a production-based Jackaroo and 54-mins 32-secs behind Garland. Brock is coping with a back injury suffered in an exhibition go-kart race in Darwin last Saturday evening.
Gold Coast driver Peter Lockhart, who has raced in the Safari each year since its inception, rolled his Jackaroo in today's stage, but was not injured. He is attempting to repair his vehicle in a bid to rejoin the field tomorrow.
South Australia's Andy Caldecott remained in first place in the Moto Division, and is on target for a third successive Safari win on his KTM 660 Rallye. Caldecott leads with a time of 8-hrs 54-mins 20-secs, and leads Honda-mounted NSW rider Paul Sinderberry by 1-min 17-secs.
American Casey McCoy, riding a Honda XR650, is sixth in his third Safari start, and is hopeful of equalling or bettering his best previous result of third in 2000.
"This year's course is a fun mix of tight stuff and some fast and high-speed corners," said McCoy. "There seems to be more emphasis on navigation this year, and I've had to go back and find my way a couple of times. The tighter sections are probably best for me. I'm playing a waiting game because it's a class field and some guys may start to push over the limit as we go on."
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OVERALL POSITIONS (after Day 3 - Tuesday, August 27): <pre> AUTO DIVISION: POS DRIVERS VEHICLE TIME 1. B. Garland-H. Suzuki (NSW) Holden Jackaroo 9:38.40 2. S. Riley-J. Doble (Vic) Mitsubishi Pajero 9:51.52 3. P. Glennie-P. Clark (NSW) Toyota Series RV 9:53.34 4. A. Brown-P. Styles (Vic) Holden Frontera 10:01.45 5. B. Muir-A. Muir (NT) Nissan Patrol 10:04.29 6. W. Ridge-J.Ridge (NSW) Mitsubishi Pajero 10:12.13 7. J. Hederics (Vic)-K. Weel (Qld) Nissan Patrol 10:14.15 8. A. Stott-M. Davies (Vic) Nissan Patrol 10:18.13 9. R. Owen-R. Cairns (Vic) Nissan Patrol 10:24.38 10. R. Cremen-G. Comber (NSW) Mitsubishi Pajero 10:25.21
MOTO DIVISION: POS RIDER MOTORCYCLE TIME 1. A. Caldecott (SA) KTM 660 Rallye 8:54.20 2. P. Sinderberry (NSW) Honda XR650 8:55.37 3. A. Haydon (SA) KTM 660 Rallye 9:10.42 4. A. Cox (Sth Africa) Red Bull KTM 660 Rallye 9:10.42 5. S. Greenfield (NT) Honda XR650 9:23.30 6. C. McCoy (U.S.) Honda XR650 9:44.09 7. P. Lundmark (Sweden) KTM Rallye Replica 9:49.31 8. R. Runnalls (Vic) Suzuki DR-Z400 10:07.13 9. T. Fitzhardinge (WA) KTM 660 Rallye 10:18.52 10. P. McDonald (Vic) Honda XR650 10:26.34 10. P. Nelson (NSW) KTM 520EXC