Increase in Australian Safari Rally entries.

MONDAY, AUGUST 5: A total of 13 vehicle and motorcycle manufacturers will be represented in this month's 4,375km Australian Safari international cross country rally through rural NSW.

There are also competitors from six overseas countries among the 69 provisional entries announced today by Octagon, the global sports and events marketing company which is promoting the rally from August 24-September 1.

Octagon's General Manager of Motorsports Craig Fletcher said he was delighted with a 50-percent increase in the Auto Division entries for off-road vehicles compared to 2001 when the event was held in the Northern Territory.

"Our first Safari held exclusively in New South Wales has generated a lot of interest, and that's shown by the surge in entries, particularly in the Auto Division," he said.

"Overall entries are up, and we're very pleased with the mix of different types of vehicles and motorcycles. It's going to be a fantastic spectacle to see them all thundering through the outback."

"Without doubt the field includes Australia's best in this form of motorsport and they will be put to the test by the top-end quality coming from overseas."

Mitsubishi has the biggest representation of any manufacturer in the Auto Division with 12 vehicles among the 31 entries. These include NSW's Terry Denham, runner-up in 2000, and Victorian Stephen Riley, who held second position for part of the Safari 12 months ago, both in four-wheel-drive Pajeros.

There are eight Holden teams entered, led by the works Jackaroos driven by four-times champion Bruce Garland, multiple Bathurst 1000 winner Peter Brock, and part-time V8 Supercar racer Nathan Pretty. Gold Coast driver Peter Lockhart, who has raced in every Safari since its inception in 1985 and was third outright two years ago, is also competing again in a Jackaroo.

The six teams entered in Nissans are spearheaded by the four-wheel-drive Patrols raced by Mildura's John Hederics, a six-times Moto Division winner partnered by former champion Kees Weel, and Bruce Muir from the Northern Territory.

Toyota, Suzuki, Daihatsu, Land Rover, Jeep, and Peugeot are also represented among the entries, and they will compete in five categories ranging from highly-modified vehicles to production models.

In the Moto Division, there are 38 entries on four types of machines, including works-supported teams from Austrian manufacturer KTM and Japanese rival Honda. They have the largest representation with 14 motorcycles each, followed by Yamaha on six, and Suzuki on four.

South African Alfie Cox, who will ride a KTM 660 Rallye, is the leading overseas competitor in this year's Safari, finishing in the top five of the Paris-Dakar rally four times in the past five years, including second in 2002.

Another leading overseas rider entered is American Casey McCoy, runner-up in 2000 and third the following year, on a Honda XR650. There are also overseas entries in the Moto Division from the Phillipines, Sweden, and Japan.

The Netherlands is represented in the Auto Division with five teams, including three-times European champion Phillip Soeterboek in a Mitsubishi Pajero.

This year's Safari starts with a 2km Prologue in Bathurst, and results will determine the starting order for the opening stage the following day to Condobolin for the first overnight stop. There will also be overnight stops in Griffith, Wentworth, Broken Hill, White Cliffs, Cobar, and Dubbo, before the event finishes in Bathurst.

The total distance of 4,375km includes 2,296km of racing in 25 timed competitive stages. The longest distance travelled on any one day during the event is 770km from Griffith to Wentworth on August 27, including 407km in two competitive stages.