Quad section ready for Czech assault The Quad Bike section of the Australasian Safari looks set to be hotly contested, with a influx of Czech Republic riders determined to wrestle the title from reigning champion, John Maragozidis. Four riders...
Quad section ready for Czech assault
The Quad Bike section of the Australasian Safari looks set to be hotly contested, with a influx of Czech Republic riders determined to wrestle the title from reigning champion, John Maragozidis.
Four riders from the Czech Republic, headed by legendary quad bike rider, Josef Machacek, a five-time winner of the Dakar Rally, look capable of holding the Quad Bike trophy high in Kalgoorlie on August 8 when the gruelling seven day event concludes.
Local hopes will rest with Maragozidis, while 2008 runner-up, Paul Smith, is also in with a show. The third Australian rider is local West Australian, Heath Young.
Last year's pacesetter was the South African, Vicus Vanderventer, but the experienced rider crashed late in the event and suffered a broken leg. He won't be at the starting line this year, but with four Czech riders taking his place, Maragozidis is certain not to have it all his own way in his title defence.
"I'll be attacking the event with the same approach as I did last year to ride within the means and focus on each day at a time," Maragozidis said. "Good preparation and a good crew are the key elements."
Maragozidis has a new 2009 model Polaris Outlaw for this year's marathon, with a lighter chassis, more power, better suspension and new Light Force HID driving lights to tackle the early morning and evening stages.
"I've been preparing really hard," he said. "I've been on an organic food diet that helps me to ride to the best of my ability, and have recently contested the Finke Desert Race and a three-hour enduro on sand dunes, which I won.
"My sole focus will be on my race, not on what the other riders are doing, as I can't control that."
As a multiple Dakar winner, Machacek would love to add an Australasian Safari win to his resume, but on a more personal level, he sees his entry as a new challenge in his career.
"Australia is the only continent I haven't visited," 52-year old Machacek said. "This is my big new challenge getting to know the people on this continent, the great outdoors, the animals, and your special race."
Machacek's countrymen will also be competing in Australia for the first time, with Tomas Kubiena, Jaroslav Chytil and Martin Plechaty all keen to master the tough Western Australian outback tracks.
Paul Smith finished third in 2008, but a number of problems slowed his progress on most days. This year he's much better prepared.
"Last year I went out too hard on the first few days and the bike kept breaking, but I've got a new CAN AM Renegade 800 R X for 2009, and I'm hoping the lessons learnt from last year will pay off," Smith said.
Smith finished second at the recent Finke Desert Race riding a 450 Renegade, but the more powerful 800cc bike give him an even great chance in the Safari.
"The guys from the Czech Republic are very experienced and will be really tough to beat, but I'm actually hoping to learn plenty from them about how they tackle a race like this. My experience of the Safari and Australian conditions will give me an advantage, but in an event as long as this, you never know what might happen."
Australasian Safari director, Justin Hunt, is thrilled with the quality of the quad bike field, and sees it growing even further in the coming years.
"Quad bikes are a very exciting aspect of the motorcycle market and is experiencing very good growth during a slow economic period," Hunt said.
"The Quad category is something that we're working with CAN AM, one of our event sponsors, to continue to promote, because the manufacturers are investing heavily in motorsport in Australia at the present time.
"It's a spectacular aspect of the event, and we look forward to promoting it even further in the years ahead."
Of the seven quad bike entries, there are six different manufacturers represented: Yamaha, Polaris, CAN AM, ATV, KTM and Borile.