VODAFONE AUSTRALIAN SAFARI – Sunday, August 27 DAY 8: Darwin/Mindil Beach Sprint Total distance: 3km. Competitive distance: 3km (1 stage)

SCHWANTZ WINS FINAL STAGE OF SAFARI

Former 500cc motorcycle world champion Kevin Schwantz today raced to his first stage win and Japanese rider Asaji Sugahara was rushed to hospital after being knocked unconscious in a dramatic end to the Vodafone Australian Safari international cross country rally in Darwin.

Amid the excitement of Schwantz's win, and concern over Sugahara's condition, South Australian Andrew Caldecott predictably won the motorcycle division of the 4,067km event through the Northern Territory and Sydney's Bruce Garland claimed a record third victory in the class for four-wheel-drive vehicles.

Schwantz won the final stage over 3km on Mindil Beach just minutes after Sugahara crashed his Suzuki DR350 on the entry to a jump and landed heavily on his head. The 29-year-old from Kyoto, who was one of 15 Japanese riders who began the event in Alice Springs on August 20, lay motionless on the course while being treated by St John's Ambulance personnel.

Sugahara regained consciousness while being transported by ambulance to Royal Darwin Hospital where he was admitted to the Accident and Emergency Centre. A hospital spokesman said Sugahara had been cleared of broken bones by x-rays and would undergo a brain scan. The spokesman said Sugahara was alert and his condition was stable, but added he would remain in hospital overnight where his condition would be monitored.

British rider Steve Blackney, who viewed the crash minutes before he rode the course, said it was likely Sugahara had misjudged the entry to the jump.

"It scared everyone seeing that crash and we all thought the sand must have been soft," said Blackney. "He seemed to be sitting down and hit the ramp on closed throttle - maybe he should have been standing up, leaning back, and going at full throttle."

Schwantz, who made his cross country rally debut in the Safari, was ecstatic at his 5-secs victory on a Suzuki DR-Z400 over Caldecott, who had taken the honours on each of the previous seven days of the event on a KTM 660 Rallye.

"Caldecott was in a class of his own all week and he deserved to win the Safari, but it's a great to finish off my first shot at one of these races with a win," said Schwantz. "We've been riding hundreds of kilometres every day, but this last stage was a short blast and that's more like what I'm used to coming from a grand prix road racing background."

Caldecott won the two-wheel division in a time of 25-hrs 9-mins 41, secs, finishing 2-hrs 10-mins 2-secs clear of second-placed American Casey McCoy on a Honda XR400, who was followed by South Australian Tony Tervoert on a Husqvarna TE610E.

"It would have been good to every day of the Safari, but I can't complain because it's been such a good week," said Caldecott.

Garland, who previously won the Safari in 1996 and again 12 months ago, recorded his third victory with an overall time of 25-hrs 3-mins 22-secs. He finished 40-mins and 40-secs clear of NSW pair Terry and Michael Denham, and they were followed by Queenslanders Peter Lockhart and Tim Donovan in a Holden Jackaroo.

Garland said it was difficult to compare each of his three victories in the Safari.

"Every time we've won there's been different circumstances, but really it's good to finish first in the Safari any time because it's such a tough event," said Garland.

He said the crucial point of his victory was the 431km section from Alice Springs to Wycliffe Well on August 23, when he and navigator Harry Suzuki claimed the lead for the first time after the Denhams had three punctures,

"Terry (Denham) had some problems that day and we were able to take advantage of it and get a good lead," said Garland.

Nine Network 'Sale of the Century' host Glenn Ridge claimed a top 10 finish for the second successive year with navigator Bob Edwards in a Nissan Patrol.

"We had seven punctures, but apart from that it was a good, clean run all the way," said Ridge. "I recognise I'm a part-time motorsport competitor so I have to be realistic in my expectations. My main aim was to make it to Darwin and finish, so to get into the top 10 was a bonus." <pre> FINAL OVERALL POSITIONS (after Day 8 - Sunday, August 27):

MOTO DIVISION: POS RIDER MOTORCYCLE TIME 1. A. Caldecott (SA) KTM 660 Rallye 25:09.41 2. C. McCoy (U.S.) Honda XR400 27:19.43 3. T. Tervoert (SA) Husqvarna TE610E 27:31.13 4. R. Pollard (WA) KTM 640 Adventure 27:37.18 5. G. Hoffman (NSW) KTM 620 28:52.10 6. T. Kirby (NSW) Suzuki DR-Z400 29:11.59 7. S. Blackney (GB) KTM 660 Rallye 29:26.59 8. C. Ross (NT) Honda XR650 29:49.07 9. A. Roberts (NT) Honda XR400 29:49.22 10. P. Talintyre (NSW) KTM 640 Rallye 30:43.42 OTHER: 13. K. Schwantz (U.S.) Suzuki DR-Z400 32:46.31

AUTO DIVISION: POS DRIVERS VEHICLE TIME 1. B. Garland (NSW)-H. Suzuki (NSW) Holden Jackaroo 25:03.22 2. T. Denham (NSW)-M. Denham (NSW) Mitsubishi Pajero 25:44.02 3. P. Lockhart (Qld)-T. Donovan (Qld) Holden Jackaroo 27:32.02 4. D. Harringon (Vic)-G. Taylor (NSW) Nissan Patrol Ute 27:40.32 5. G. Pfitzner (NSW)-J. Campbell (NSW) Nissan GQ 27:59.12 6. R. Emmins (Vic)-B. Humphrey (Vic) Jeep Grand Cherokee 28:56.58 7. B. Muir (NT)-A. Muir (NT) Nissan Patrol 29:06.30 8. P. Glennie (NSW)-M. Roberts (NSW) Toyota Landcruiser 29:26.37 9. B. Land (U.S.)-T. Carpenter (Qld) Isuzu Jackaroo 32:30.21 10. G. Ridge (Vic)-B. Edwards (SA) Nissan Patrol 32:58.03

-Mike Porter-