THURSDAY, FEBURARY 8: The Northern Territory Government today announced it would back this year's upgraded Australian Safari international cross-country rally, which includes a round of the World Cup for motorcycles. Chief Minister, the Hon....
THURSDAY, FEBURARY 8: The Northern Territory Government today announced it would back this year's upgraded Australian Safari international cross-country rally, which includes a round of the World Cup for motorcycles.
Chief Minister, the Hon. Denis Burke MLA, said the Government was delighted to extend its support for a third successive year, and he predicted the 2001 Safari over a course from Alice Springs to Darwin from August 19-26 would benefit greatly from the prestige of being part of the World Cup.
This year's Safari will be the fourth round of the Federation Internationale Motocycliste (FIM) Cross Country Rallies World Cup, and as in past years the event will also include a separate division for four-wheel-drive vehicles.
In 2000 the FIM's World Cup motorcycle series was contested by factory-supported KTM, Honda, Yamaha, and Husaberg manufacturer teams, and was won by Italian superstar Fabrizio Meoni, who also finished first in this year's glamour Paris-Dakar race.
"Each year the Government has been involved with the Safari it has undergone substantial growth, and we are tremendously excited that it will now be part of the World Cup, which will take the event to new levels of international importance and prestige," said the Chief Minister.
"The worldwide interest and media exposure generated by the Safari will be a significant part of the Northern Territory's overall tourism and marketing plans because it will showcase our terrain, our towns, and our special way of life. There are also considerable economic benefits for our communities and towns as the Safari makes its way through the 'Territory'."
The Motorsports Manager of Safari promoter Octagon Worldwide, Craig Fletcher, said today the support of the Northern Territory Government was crucial in the development of the event.
Fletcher added that the inclusion of a round of the FIM's World Cup in the Safari would provide an opportunity for Australian-based riders to test themselves against leading international competitors and teams.
"The ongoing backing from the Northern Territory Government has cemented the Safari's future, and being part of the World Cup has added a new dimension of excitement," said Fletcher.
"It is fantastic that we are going to see an influx of top overseas teams, but I am certain our Australian riders will rise to the challenge and prove they can be competitive with the world's best."
South Australian Andy Caldecott, who won the motorcycle division of the Safari in 2000 on a KTM 660, said he would welcome the opportunity to race against the works-supported World Cup riders from overseas in the Safari.
"I think the top Australian riders would do a good job and hopefully the manufacturers here get behind our guys and make sure we have similar equipment so we can show what we can do," said Caldecott.
Fletcher said that Octagon was also planning some new concepts for the Safari's four-wheel-drive vehicle division, won in the past two years by Sydney's Bruce Garland in a Holden Jackaroo.
"There are some interesting things in the pipeline to further improve the vehicles division, and these will be announced in the near future once the finishing touches are in place," said Fletcher.
Safari Competition Director and Clerk of Course Bob Carpenter will this year set the course for the 14th time since the event's inception in 1985.
Carpenter and Deputy Clerk of Course Jim Reddiex spent two weeks in the Northern Territory in January inspecting provisional routes for the course and conducting a preliminary survey.
"We covered most of the areas under consideration and I'd expect that once the course is finalised it will include a wide variety of terrain, with more time in the desert and less hilly sections that last year," he said.
Carpenter said it was expected that the 2001 course would cover a total of approximately 4,300km, with 65-percent of that distance in 23 competitive stages. The 2000 Safari comprised a total of 4,067km, and 24 competitive stages over 2,422km.
He said that this year's Safari would again finish with the traditional sprint stage on Darwin's Mindil Beach, won in 2000 by former 500cc road racing world champion Kevin Schwantz of the United States on a Suzuki DR-Z400.
Carpenter said he would conduct another survey through the Northern Territory in May, which would include accurate measurements of the course, and finalise control points and refuelling destinations.
<pre> 2001 FIM WORLD CUP CROSS COUNTRY RALLIES CALENDAR (motorcycles) Round 1: Rallye de Tunisie (Tunisia), March 30-April 9 Round 2: Montes de Cuenca (Spain), May 31-June 3 Round 3: Master Rallye (France), July 26-August 5 Round 4: Australian Safari (Australia), August 19-26 Round 5: Rallye Egypt (Egypt), September 29-October 7 Round 6: UAE Desert Challenge (United Arab Emirates), October 31-November 4