Australasian Safari: Series leg one summary

Smiths common at top of Safari leaderboard The Smiths have dominated the leader board at the end of the opening day of the Australiasian Safari that took competitors across nearly 100 competitive kilometres from Perth to Geraldton. The...

Smiths common at top of Safari leaderboard

The Smiths have dominated the leader board at the end of the opening day of the Australiasian Safari that took competitors across nearly 100 competitive kilometres from Perth to Geraldton.

The motorbike section is being lead by young New South Wales rider, Todd Smith, with his brother Jacob holding down second place just 12 seconds behind.

In the quadbike competition, Victorian Paul Smith has made an exceptionally strong start to the seven-day marathon, having opened up a three minute 11 seconds over West Australian, Heath Young.

The only competition not headed by a Smith is the car competition, with Safari veteran Des Harrington holding a narrow 15 second buffer over fellow Nissan Patrol driver, Adrian Parker, with defending champion Steve Riley third a further five seconds back.

The day's stages were sandy affairs with some difficult water crossings to make it a challenge for both riders and drivers. Crews knew that while the first day was tough, it was only a precursor to what lies ahead over the following six days on the epic 3600 kilometre journey to Kalgoorlie on Saturday.

A consistent ride over the two stages has seen Todd Smith take a slender lead on his KTM over Jacob on the leading Honda. Mathew Fish is third in the bikes also on a KTM.

"It was a day where consistency and map reading was very important," Todd Smith said. "There was a fair bit of track that was unmade and hard to see, but it all went well for me. The bike also performed well."

His brother, Jacob, agreed that it was a difficult day.

"The course is pretty tough, so I took it easy and didn't take any risks," Jacob Smith explained. "Overall though it's been a good day."

Last year's winner, Ben Grabham, had a "massive crash" on the first stage of the day, but still ended the day in fourth and only 53 seconds off the pace.

"I was trying to make up time and hit something on the flat and went over the handlebars," a relaxed Grabham explained. "There's no real damage and there's still plenty of days left to make up any time lost today."

The wild men of the Quad bike category were at it again today. Considered to be the bravest of all competitors, their job is made even more difficult on the bucking and lurching machines.

Paul Smith heads a pack of well credentialed riders, including last year's winner John Maragazodis, and four overseas stars, including Dakar winner, Josef Machacek.

"I'm stoked to be leading," a surprised Smith said. "I've had an awesome day. The stages were short but it was easy to make a mistake and you had to be very precise with your navigation.

"The bike held up well, although I had a drive belt break crossing the finish line of the second stage, so I was a bit lucky."

Harrington is a seasoned Australasian Safari competitor, but is a surprise Auto class leader at the end of the first day. Experience is the key to success in marathon events, and Harrington knows that consistency, rather than outright speed, is what counts.

"I'm very surprised to be leading," Harrington said. "I'm really pleased though; we had a fantastic day with no car problems, so it's shaping up to be a great event."

Western Australian, Adrian Parker, is just as big a surprise in second place, while Riley has started his title defence well.

"It's been a good day today. I made amends for yesterday's slow time on the prologue," Riley said. "There was quite lot of deep sand which made it quite interesting today, and a few guys seemed to have clutch and overheating problems, but our car held up well.

"We caught up to a couple of guys but couldn't quite get past them, and the navigation was pretty tough, so having a good navigator really pays off."

Day two of the Australasian Safari will see competitors tackle another two stages between Geraldton and Mt Magnet. The day starts with a daunting 244.75 kilometre stage, followed by another 137 kilometre stage that is certain to sort out the contenders from the pretenders.

-credit: australasiansafari.com

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Series Cross-Country Rally
Drivers Josef Machacek , Ben Grabham , Paul Smith , Todd Smith