FRIDAY, MARCH 8: This year's Australian Safari international cross country rally through rural NSW has been included in the prestigious World Cup series for motorcycles.

The Moto Division of the 5000km Safari from August 24-September 1 will be the fourth of six rounds in the 2002 Federation Internationale Motocycliste (FIM) Cross-Country Rallies World Cup.

The World Cup calendar was finalised at the FIM conference in Geneva, Switzerland, and is as follows: <pre> Round 1: April 6-14; Rallye Tunisia, Tunisia Round 2: June 4-9; Rally Opri Maroc, Morocco Round 3: August 1-11; Master Rallye, France Round 4: August 24-September 1; Australian Safari, Australia Round 5: September 28-October 6; Egypt Rally, Egypt/Italy Round 6: October 31-November 4; UAE Desert Challenge, United Arab Emirates

Motorcycling Australia Chief Executive Officer David White said today the FIM's decision to include the Safari in the World Cup for a second successive year proved the event's high standing at international level.

"It's great to see the FIM continue to recognise the significance of the Safari as a truly world class event, and it provides our Australian competitors with the chance to show what they can do," said White.

The Safari, also part of the FIM's World Cup series in 2001 when held in the Northern Territory, also includes an Auto Division for off-road four-wheel-drive vehicles.

This year's event will be staged over a course which starts and finishes in Bathurst, and passes through Condobolin, Griffith, Wentworth, Broken Hill, White Cliffs, Cobar, and Dubbo.

South Australian Andrew Caldecott, winner of the Safari's Moto Division for the past two years, said today he welcomed the news the event had been included on the FIM's World Cup calendar.

"For sure it's good for the event because being in the World Cup gives the Safari an international flavour," said Caldecott, who will defend his title this year with Austrian manufacturer KTM.

"The overseas riders make things more competitive for the fastest of the Australians everyone has to lift their game, both in performance and preparation."

Craig Fletcher, Motorsports Manager for Safari owners and producers Octagon Worldwide, said the World Cup status would assist the growth of the event.

"This is very positive news, and the international recognition will have flow-on benefits to the various outback areas of New South Wales where the Safari will be travelling through," said Fletcher.

The Safari will be one of four major international motorcycle events in Australia in 2002, along with the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island, and the Australian rounds of the World Superbike Championship at Phillip Island and the World Speedway Grand Prix series in Sydney.

Octagon Worldwide is the sports marketing and entertainment division of the Interpublic Group, one of the world's largest marketing and communications groups. Its other motorsport events in Australia include the annual Targa Tasmania tarmac rally, and the Grand Prix Rally in Victoria.