VODAFONE AUSTRALIAN SAFARI - Monday, August 21
DAY 2 REPORT: Alice Springs-Curtin Springs
Total distance: 632km. Competitive distance: 468km (3 stages)
NICASTRI TAKES LEAD – DENHAM PENALISED
Nissan Patrol driver Ross Nicastri today raced into the outright lead in the Auto Division of the Vodafone Australian Safari cross country rally through the Northern Territory amid a controversial 40-minute penalty imposed on fellow-NSW competitor Terry Denham.
Former Australian speedway champion Nicastri and navigator Steve Green won today's 468km competitive section from Alice Springs to Curtin Springs by covering the three stages in 4-hours 48-minutes 50-seconds. They finished 4-minutes and 10-seconds ahead of defending champions Bruce Garland and Harry Suzuki in a Holden Jackaroo.
Nicastri, who had shared the lead with Denham after yesterday's opening four stages from Alice Springs to Ross River and back, now holds first position overall with an aggregate time of 7-hours 54-minutes 46-seconds. Garland is second, 8-minutes 35-seconds behind the leaders.
"The last stage was run on wide-open tracks and I was getting the Nissan sideways like I used to do back in my days racing speedway," said Nicastri. "It's good to be leading, but Bruce (Garland) is close behind so we're not in a comfort zone."
Denham dropped back to fifth place with a time of 8-hours 43-minutes 27-seconds in a Mitsubishi Pajero, which included a 40-minute penalty for arriving 40-minutes late for today's first stage. The 50-year-old from Winmalee in the Blue Mountains, who is driving with son Michael Denham, claimed his late arrival for the start was the result of being supplied with incorrect navigation information.
"Some of the directions were amended, but the information I received was unchanged and wrong," said Denham. "I drove 60km down the wrong road and that's why I was late for the start. It wasn't my fault and I don't think I should have been penalised."
After arriving in Curtin Springs, Denham expressed his disappointment to Safari Event Administrator Tom Snooks, who said the matter would be considered later tonight by Clerk of Course Bob Carpenter.
"The clerk of course will make a decision, and if the Denhams are unhappy with the outcome they have the right to lodge a protest which would be heard by the stewards," said Snooks.
Should the penalty be dropped, Denham would move up to third place and he would be only 8-minutes and 41-seconds behind Nicastri and 6-seconds behind Garland.
South Australia's Andrew Caldecott continued his domination of the Moto Division, extending his lead to 32-minutes on a KTM 660 Rallye. The 36-year-old from Keith, who is the top seed, had been 15-minutes and 53-seconds in front after yesterday's opening section.
"Everything has gone really well, apart from a couple of mistakes when I went into some corners too hard," said Caldecott. "I'm pushing on because I want to put a gap on the others to have a buffer in case I have a problem later in the week."
American Casey McCoy retained second position, despite riding into a barbed-wire fence at high speed. He avoided crashing, but was delayed for 4-minutes while cutting his machine free from the fencing.
"I hit the wire at about 110-km/h and it wrapped itself around the wheel," said McCoy. "Luckily I stayed upright and was able to get going again and finish the day."
Former 500cc world champion Kevin Schwantz dropped back to 10th after crashing twice on his Suzuki DR-Z400.
"I hit some bushes, which were as hard as rocks, and went down," said the 35-year-old Texan. "I also got lost a couple of times, but I'm starting to get better at reading the maps. This was the longest day of the Safari in competitive distance and I was happy to make it through and I'm still in the race."
Japan's Tomoyuki Fujita, a class winner in the 1999 Safari, suffered a broken collarbone after crashing his Yamaha TTD250. Another Japanese rider, Asaji Sugahara, crashed his Suzuki DR350 and was treated by St Johns Ambulance personnel for concussion. His condition was not serious.
<pre> OVERALL POSITIONS (after Day 2 - Monday, August 21):
AUTO DIVISION: POS DRIVERS VEHICLE TIME 1. R. Nicastri (NSW)-S. Green (NSW) Nissan Patrol 7:54.46 2. B. Garland (NSW)-H. Suzuki (NSW) Holden Jackaroo 8:03.21 3. P. Glennie (NSW)-M. Roberts (NSW) Toyota Landcruiser 8:24.04 4. D. Harringon (Vic)-G. Taylor (NSW) Nissan Patrol Ute 8:33.16 5. T. Denham (NSW)-M. Denham (NSW) Mitsubishi Pajero 8:43.27 6. P. Lockhart (Qld)-T. Donovan (Qld) Holden Jackaroo 8:50.13 7. R. Gambino (NSW)-D. Lowe (NSW) Suzuki Grand Vitara 8:59.49 8. A. Stott (Vic)-T. Connor (Vic) Nissan Patrol 9:10.35 9. G. Pfitzner (NSW)-J. Campbell (NSW) Nissan GQ 9:13.27 10. T. Pinson (NSW)-R. Lewis (NSW) Mitsubishi Pajero 9:19.31
MOTO DIVISION: POS RIDER MOTORCYCLE TIME 1. A. Caldecott (SA) KTM 660 Rallye 7:56.52 2. C. McCoy (U.S.) Honda XR400 8:28.52 3. T. Tervoert (SA) Husqvarna TE610E 8:34.10 4. R. Pollard (WA) KTM 640 Adventure 8:51.06 5. S. Blackney (GB) KTM 660 Rallye 9:10.25 6. G. Hoffman (NSW) KTM 620 9:21.32 7. A. Roberts (NT) Honda XR400 9:26.33 8. T. Kirby (NSW) Suzuki DR-Z400 9:27.12 9. T. Fitzhardinge (WA) KTM 660 Rallye 9:28.54 10. K. Schwantz (U.S.) Suzuki DR-Z400 9:33.20