Today’s Marathon Leg, the first of two in this year’s Australasian Safari, saw the top of the field in the motos, autos and quads secure their positions in a day of cat and mouse where caution was key to stay in the race.
Limited servicing rules meant it was crucial to keep the vehicles in one piece over some incredibly difficult terrain. Todd Smith on a KTM managed to finish on top of the motos despite nursing a sore shoulder from yesterday and thanks to some on-form navigation.
“I thought the stages were still pretty tight, but much faster today. They were a bit more predictable, so I guess that makes them faster. I went past Jake, Ben and Rod on the last stage because they took a wrong turn.
“I had a hole in the radiator, so I had to fix that in the service. I didn’t get a chance to do much else,” Todd said.
Yesterday’s leader Ben Grabham, also on a KTM, had a strategy for a steady day. It proved successful, finishing just over a minute later than Todd.
The Marathon Day rules do not allow moto tyres to be changed during the stages, so Ben said he wasn’t trying to be fast to minimise wear on his tyres.
“The guys who were going too fast have shredded theirs so it will be interesting to see how they go tomorrow. I don’t expect to be in the lead after today, because I was riding conservatively.
“Today’s stages were long and faster, and a bit more open. Yesterday was more technical.
“I was first on the stage, and so I was trying to set the pace and slow things down a bit, thinking about tomorrow,” Ben said.
Rod Faggotter on a Yamaha WR450F had an eventful day, getting caught twice in wire on the track.
“For the second stage we were riding single file and chewing dust. The wire slowed me down in the morning and I would have dropped some time because of that.
“I was riding to conserve the bike, in service I just did and oil change and changed the air filter. I dented a rim, but there is not much you can do to fix it and anyway its fine. Its going to be interesting to see how some of the bikes last tomorrow.”
Paul Smith was the leader of the quads on his Honda TRX700XX, ahead of John Maragozidis on a Interceptor 850 by 32 minutes.
Competitors will have to face a second Marathon Day tomorrow as the event travels from Leonora to the historic goldfields town of Coolgardie, once the third largest town in Western Australia.
Considered one of the world’s great endurance events, the Australasian Safari is travelling from Southern Cross in the wheatbelt through to the historic Western Australian goldfields, desert, rugged bush and coastal sand dunes, finishing at Esperance.