Rallye

Safari Prologue provides a taste of the challenges ahead

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The stage has been set for an exciting seven days of racing following today's Australasian Safari Prologue in Geraldton, Western Australia.

Long grasses from a wet winter provided challenging, making navigating and slipping amongst the biggest hurdles of the 19km course which sets the start order for Leg One of the race tomorrow.

The experienced Safari moto riders finished strongly, and fastest in the bikes was Jacob Smith on a Honda CRF450, just eight seconds ahead of last year's winner Ben Grabham and just two seconds behind him again was Jake's brother Todd Smith, also riding on the same model bike as his brother.

KTM mounted Troy O'Connor was 4th fastest.

Dakar champion Cyril Despres finished eighth in the Prologue and said he had a few frustrations, not finishing as fast as he would like.

"I caught the dust off other riders with only one minute between each rider starting.

"The navigation is a bit different to what I am used to so it will take me a couple of days to sort this out. But we have a lot of days ahead," Despres said.

Young English rider Sam Sunderland had a dramatic start to Safari when a small electrical component came loose and got caught in his steering and jammed, forcing him off his bike at high speed.

"I cartwheeled off the bike, it was so scary," Sunderland said.

Yamaha riders Shane Diener and Rod Faggotter made an encouraging start in their campaign. The duo are well placed and looking forward to getting the weeklong event under way.

South Australia's Shane Diener posted a very respectable fifth placing in the 16minute prologue while Queenslander Faggotter slipped into ninth place, with less than 1 minute separating the top 10 motorcycle competitors.

Both mounted on Yamaha WR450's, they both took things relatively easy as they are fully aware there is a lot of racing and a lot of miles to be covered in the coming days and there was no need to place extra stress on the bikes, bodies or their crews.

"The aim of today was just to ensure the bikes are dialed in and to be somewhere near the front for the start of the event so dust doesn't become an issue," comments Faggotter.

"Both Shane and I just took the smart approach and we both ended up in a pretty good position and now look forward to the real race beginning tomorrow."

Paul Smith was ahead of the Quad pack at the end of the Prologue day finishing 54 seconds ahead of second fastest Heath Young and enjoying his first day of racing.

The Prologue finished with a rousing public welcome at the picturesque Geraldton Foreshore.

Leg One tomorrow will see competitors race from Geraldton inland to Mt Magnet over 328 competitive km, and they can expect open station country before some rough, rocky and narrow tracks. The course continues along the Vermin Proof Fence where course crews enter a 'Quite Zone' and competition is restricted to 70 kph whilst travelling

Main Photo: Jacob Smith leads the field into the opening day
Credit: Supplied


Prologue Results ‰ÛÒ Motorcycles
1st Jacob Smith (Honda)
2nd Ben Grabham (KTM)
3rd Todd Smith (Honda)
4th Troy O'Connor (KTM)
5th Shane Diener (Yamaha)
6th Damien Grabham (Husaberg)
7th Matt Fish (KTM)
8th Cyril Despres (KTM)
9th Rod Faggotter (Yamaha)
10th David Geeves

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