TUESDAY, JULY 24: Britain's ongoing Foot and Mouth Disease crisis has disrupted London-based motorcycle rider Andrew Coaker's preparation for next month's Australian Safari international cross country rally through the Northern Territory. The ...
TUESDAY, JULY 24: Britain's ongoing Foot and Mouth Disease crisis has disrupted London-based motorcycle rider Andrew Coaker's preparation for next month's Australian Safari international cross country rally through the Northern Territory.
The 28-year-old Australian, who has raced in the prestigious Paris-Dakar rally and other international events during the past four years while based in Britain, will ride a KTM 660 Rallye in the 2001 Safari from August 19-26.
Coaker said his preparation for the 4,300km rally from Alice Springs to Darwin had been temporarily stalled by the cancellation of an off-road event he had intended to ride in this weekend at Hawkstone Park north-east of London. He was informed of the decision yesterday and said it was forced on organisers because of the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak, which began in February.
"This was going to be my last race before coming to Australia for the Safari, but it's been called off because of the Foot and Mouth situation," said Coaker. "It's one of many sports affected by this in recent months."
"I'm disappointed because I need all the riding I can get. Work commitments haven't allowed me to spend as much time on the bike as I would have liked, so I'm hoping to fit in some extra training rides in the next few weeks before the Safari."
Coaker said he was aiming for a top-three podium finish in the Moto Division of the Safari, which is round three of the Federation Internationale Motocycliste (FIM) cross country rallies World Cup. He contested both previous World Cup rounds this year, failing to finish in the opener in Tunisia from March 30-April 9, and securing seventh position in the following event in Spain from May 31-June 3.
His other World Cup performances include finishing seventh in the final round of the 2000 series, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Desert Challenge.
Coaker has made three previous starts in the Safari during the past five years, with a best result of eighth in 1996.
"I didn't finish the Safari the last couple of times I raced in it, but I'd be disappointed if I can't be in the top three this year," said Coaker. "The KTM is a big bike that handles well at speed, and it should be good for the Australian conditions. The course is a bit different to when I was last there, but I've raced over most of the country before ^Ö I like it rough and sandy."
Coaker is part of a powerful squad assembled by Austrian manufacturer KTM for the Safari. Others include defending champion Andrew Caldecott of South Australia, riding a works 660 Rallye built to Paris-Dakar specification and West Australian Tim Fitzhardinge on a 2000-machine.
Their main opposition is expected from Honda XR650-mounted riders Casey McCoy from the United States, runner-up to Caldecott in 2000, Glenn Hoffmann Racing pair Stephen Greenfield of Alice Springs and former 500cc grand prix racer Daryl Beattie, and Dubai-based Briton Steve Blackney.
The Safari also includes the Auto Division for off-road four-wheel-drive vehicles, and a new Rally Division for cars and lightweight four-wheel-drive vehicles. The Auto Division entries include defending champion Bruce Garland, who will be chasing a record fourth win in a new Holden Jackaroo with long-time team-mate Harry Suzuki.