Although he didn’t participate in the 2010 Australasian Safari, our contributor made the trek to the outback as a spectator.
So, I am sitting at home one day and I get this idea in my head that maybe I should sign up for and ride Dakar. I can do that, the riding seems tough but very doable. Lose some weight, cycle now and then, cut down on the burgers and fries, easy right? A little bit of research later and the entry fee all but completely scares me off from ever wanting to do a Rally or Safari. A few short weeks later a friend and I go out for burgers and fries, after all my dreams of Dakar stardom have been shot down, and I mention having wanted to ride the infamous event. He mentions the Australasian Safari as a good alternative. Cheaper, shorter, safer and on my home turf back in the land Down Under.
A little research and some phone calls later and “Dagnamit” he was right! Plans start to get made, dates shuffled for work commitments here in the U.S, sponsors called and even the occasional training session at the local LA Fitness. Two months to go and it strikes me that this years event is just not going to be possible, but the flight is already booked so I would be silly to not go down and hang out right? Right!!!!
The flight from LA to Brisbane is thirteen and a half hours and then after a two hour stop over in Brisbane I get on a flight to Perth, Western Australia where I got in a taxi and headed straight to scrutineering for the Safari at Hillary’s Boat Harbour. Immediately the magnitude of the event hits me when I see the media centre and scrutineer stalls along with set times for competitors and vehicles to go through over a two day period.
Riders would set off on 20-kilometer stages in one-minute intervals, and the rider with the fastest time would begin the following stage first.
After the hoopla that was the Ceremonial start at Hillary’s the real racing got underway in Southern Cross on a sunny Saturday afternoon. The prologue would set the riders start positions for the start of Leg 1 the following day. As I was new to all this Safari stuff i got in a borrowed 2011 Pajero and followed one of the Media Liaison’s out to a spectator viewing point. The riders set off on a 20 kilometer stage in one minute intervals. The formula seemed pretty easy to get my head around. The rider with the fastest time through the stage would set off from the Bivouac in Southern Cross the next morning, first. The second fastest would leave one minute behind him, and so on down the line.
CPW KTM’s Todd Smith would start Leg 1 first, followed by GHR Honda’s AJ Roberts who in turn would be followed one minute later by CPW team mate Ben Grabham. Most of the interest in the bivouac was aimed at BMW rider Graham Grant though. Why you ask? Well, it seems Graham has a screw loose or just likes to be punished as he entered the 2010 version of the Australasian Safari on a 1983 BMW GS R65. As an outlandishly dressed, caped crusader once said “Holy molars Batman! Am I ever glad I take good care of my teeth!”. Well, maybe that isn’t the quote I was looking for but still, who the hell enters a 7-day torture test on a damned 1983 BMW GS? Graham would start 52nd from the line the following morning.
The first day of competition featured anthills, rutted roads and a ride through the rugged outback before crossing the Trans Australian Railway Line.
Leg 1 saw the competitors head off from the overnight bivouac in Southern Cross on a very brisk West Australian morning. The First rider away was Todd Smith at 7am followed down the line by the rest of the riders at one minute intervals. The days ride could only be described as tight but fast. Hang on, that doesn’t seem right. Hell, the first days ride had everything! Huge anthills, long sections of rain rutted roads, large salt lakes, tight thickets, a ghostly ride through a freshly burned chunk of the outback and even crossing the legendary Trans Australian Railway Line. The day would see 356 kilometers of competitive stages with a total of 579 kilometers in total before arriving at the small mining town of Leonora.
After a number of riders DNF’d and having had to stop to dig one of his carbs out of the dirt because it had been flicked off by an errant stick, BMW stalwart Grant would make it in to the bivouac in 42nd place. One of the major DNF’s was that of AJ Roberts after colliding with a lost Todd Smith. Todd managed to get up and get going again but AJ was not so lucky and had to be air transported to the Kalgoorlie Regional Hospital.
The next 2 legs would be back to back marathon stages with limited servicing and the moto riders would not be able to change tires during the 2 days without receiving a substantial penalty. Some competitors would ride smart and conserve tires and bikes but others decided to take the “all out” approach. Brazilian rider Jose Rodrigues Filho who was affectionally dubbed “Pastry” by one of the other journo’s had an issue with the fuel injection on his Husaberg and would make it through the day but have to go in for a service and take the 5 hour penalty. Swedish Rally Queen, Annie Seel also started to climb the leader board after having a tough couple days and would find herself sitting in 16th at the end of Leg 3. The mighty Beemer got some dust in the ignition while heading for the bivouac in
On the fourth day competitors headed south toward Norseman, leaving behind red dirt and rocks for the sandy white beach of Esperance in western Australia.
Coolgardie but would be up and running for the next morning after Paul Rooney of BMW Specials performed his magic.
Morning four would see the competitors head south to Norseman arriving at camp around lunch time for a mid-leg service before heading out for an afternoon stage. The mornings stage took its toll on a number of riders including last year’s winner Jacob Smith, who was the first bike out from Coolgardie, but came into trouble in the second stage of the day, coming off his bike and requiring a helicopter transfer to Kalgoorlie Hospital with a suspected broken leg and injured shoulder. The group of riders following Smith, including his brother Todd, stopped to assist him. By the time the track was cleared and the riders had started to arrive for the midday service things in the paddock had started to go pear shaped.
Over the next couple of days the terrain would change from red dirt and clay to hard pack covered with marble like stones and rocks to finally the beautiful white beach sand of Esperance in the south east of Western Australia. Rod Faggotter crashed out with a broken hand and Kalgoorlie Local Warren Strange would also go out after going over the bars and breaking some ribs.
The final day would see Grabham head off with 18 minutes to spare over Todd Smith while Matthew Fish had moved up to the 3rd spot. After crashing out in one of the final legs and taking the next day to rest himself and recover from a nasty concussion, Graham Grant, the lone BMW in the field would come home in 30th. Not bad for having ridden a 27-year-old machine.