News 19 Sep 2010

Rally: Grabham leads Safari leg one, Roberts ruled out

Two-time Safari winner Ben Grabham leads the Australasian Safari after leg one today, while AJ Roberts has been forced out of the 2010 running of the event with a suspected broken wrist.

Ben Grabham leads Todd Smith on the opening day of the Australasian Safari.

Ben Grabham leads Todd Smith on the opening day of the Australasian Safari.

The first leg of Australasian Safari 2010 started in spectacular fashion today when the first and second moto starters crashed following a navigation error by Todd Smith in only the first stage.

Smith managed to get back on the bike uninjured but AJ Roberts, who started second today, did not fare as well, requiring a transport to Kalgoorlie Hospital with a suspected broken wrist, ending his chances of a Safari 2010 podium finish.

Last year’s runner-up, Smith, managed to travel on through the stage but trouble struck again when he came off again after losing a back brake, and after finishing the last stage is nursing a sore shoulder. He finished the leg in fifth position.

Two-time Safari winner Ben Grabham had a strong and uneventful day, making it through the stages without any problems, finishing the leg in first position, followed by last year’s moto winner Jacob Smith.

“I had a good day, didn’t find anything tricky and just tried to keep my riding consistent,” Grabham said. “After Todd dropped back and AJ was out, I found myself in the lead after the first stage, which I didn’t really want to do as I haven’t navigated in a race for a year or so.

“The last stage was really tricky to navigate, but I knew I just had to take my time.”

Jacob Smith said he also had difficulty in the last stage where the track was badly overgrown, making it a huge challenge for the earlier riders.

“I had a really tough day, and had trouble before I’d even started the first stage with an oil leak which I think lost me five or six minutes, but at least I’ve made it back,” Jacob Smith said.

A number of bikes didn’t manage to finish the Leg and the remainder are gradually returning to the Leonora camp.

Leading the quads today was Colin Lawson on his Can Am Renegade 800, finishing less than a minute in front of Paul Smith on his Honda TRX700XX.

Smith said he had a great day and thought it was the best Leg he had done on three years in the Safari.

“Out of all three years, today had everything, but it was 30kms of hell at the end trying to navigate through the bush. I made it through and had an awesome day.”

The 356 competitive kms (579kms in total) from Southern Cross north east to Leonora provided a score of challenges including anthills, large sections of badly rutted dirt, salt lakes and a crossing of the Trans Australian Railway.

Considered one of the world’s great endurance events, the Australasian Safari will travel from Southern Cross in the wheatbelt through to the historic Western Australian goldfields, desert, rugged bush and coastal sand dunes, finishing at Esperance.

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