Australian Safari Cross-Country Rally moves to New South Wales

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 12: The Australian Safari international cross-country rally for off-road vehicles and motorcycles is moving to rural New South Wales from the Northern Territory.

This year's Safari will be the first of three annual events supported by the NSW Government, starting with the 2002 rally from August 24 to September 1 over a 5,000km course, which will begin and finish in Bathurst.

The rally will commence with a Prologue in Bathurst, to determine starting positions for the opening leg the following day to Condobolin, and will continue on to Griffith, Wentworth, Broken Hill, White Cliffs, Cobar, and Dubbo, before returning to Bathurst.

NSW hosted a limited number of stages in 10 of the 16 previous Safaris since its inception in 1985, but never the entire event, which was contested exclusively in the Northern Territory the past three years on a course from Alice Springs to Darwin.

The rally's new course was announced today by NSW Tourism Minister Ms Sandra Nori, and Craig Fletcher, General Manager of Motorsport for the Safari's owners and producers, Octagon Worldwide.

"Western NSW will receive an estimated four to five million dollar boost from hosting the Australian Safari," said Ms Nori. "This will bring an even greater tourism profile for regional NSW through brand enhancement and extensive international and domestic media coverage. We can also expect tremendous community involvement with the overnight stopovers being encouraged to organise activities and entertainment for race participants and spectators."

Fletcher said the move to NSW was positive for the evolution of the Safari, which in 2001 attracted a factory-supported Holden team comprising four-times Safari winner Bruce Garland and nine-times Bathurst 1000 champion Peter Brock in four-wheel-drive Jackaroos, former 500cc grand prix motorcycle rider Daryl Beattie, and overseas competitors from the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

"We have thoroughly enjoyed our time in the Northern Territory," said Fletcher. "However, Octagon is excited about taking the Safari to the breathtaking outback of western and central NSW, commencing in 2002, the 'Year of the Outback'."

"Bathurst is the 'mecca' of Australian motorsport and the perfect base for the Safari, and we are confident the event will continue to grow and provide enormous economic and tourism benefits to rural NSW."

Safari Clerk of Course Bob Carpenter has begun an on-site survey of the course and said competitors would face a challenging variety of conditions and terrain in NSW.

"There will be full-on desert stages in the western region and mallee scrub in central NSW, which will test the capabilities of drivers, riders, and their machinery," he said. "Toward the finish it will be tough going with some serious, steep mountain country."

Garland, winner of the Auto Division in 2001, said he had driven over regions of the new course when the Safari passed through NSW in the 1980s and up to the mid-1990s.

"I've been on tracks around Cobar, Broken Hill, and Dubbo a few years ago with the Safari -- there are more trees than in the Northern Territory, and those mulga bushes that punish the tyres," said Garland. "I'm sure there will be some long stages with plenty of adventure."

South Australian Andrew Caldecott, who won the Moto Division the past two years, said he would appreciate the opportunity to defend his title in NSW this year with Austrian motorcycle manufacturer KTM.

"It's going to be different for eveyone this year, and people in NSW who haven't seen these bikes and cars blasting through the bush before will get a real 'buzz' out of it," said Caldecott. "I've done some racing near Condobolin and there wide, open spaces which will be fast for everone."

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.

2002 AUSTRALIAN SAFARI COURSE

PROLOGUE -- August 24: Bathurst
DAY 1 -- August 25: Bathurst-Condobolin
DAY 2 -- August 26: Condobolin-Griffith
DAY 3 -- August 27: Griffith-Wentworth
DAY 4 -- August 28: Wentworth-Broken Hill
DAY 5 -- August 29: Broken Hill-White Cliffs
DAY 6 -- August 30: White Cliffs-Cobar
DAY 7 -- August 31: Cobar-Dubbo
DAY 8 -- September 1: Dubbo-Bathurst

TOTAL DISTANCE: 5,000km (approximate)
COMPETITIVE DISTANCE: 3,000km (approximate)
COMPETITIVE STAGES: 25 (minimum)

-octagon-