Tough day at the office on stage 3 of the Australasian Safari


Stage three of the Australasian Safari from Sandstone to Laverton threw everything at competitors.

Over 560 competitive kilometres, the 48 bikes and 5 quad riders left in the competition faced many twists and turns, incredibly challenging navigation across rocky breakaways, overgrown fence lines, twisted tracks, stone roads, flood plains, and tricky navigation around bores, tanks, and windmills.

The second section for Leg 3 was described by the route coordinator as so challenging it could be a complete Safari on its own. This mixed bag of terrain was the longest section of the competition, covering 317.94km before arriving in Laverton.

Todd Smith retained his lead, ahead of brother Jacob Smith by 10 minutes, with the duo followed by Shane Diener who moved up one place after 2010 champion Ben Grabham "blew something in between the stages". He did not ride the second stage.

"Today was a great day. I just cruised in the first special and didn't take risks knowing it was a long day," Todd Smith explained.

"The second selective stage was more difficult especially since I rode most of it with no rear brakes. Again, finding the way was hard but they were fast tracks. I couldn't hear anyone behind me so I slowed down to ensure that I didn't miss any calls. The lack of mistakes certainly made up for my slower riding. I'm very happy."

Damien Grabham, Ben's brother, won the first stage, but had less luck on the second stage.

"The map reader stopped working, I looked down to see what was wrong with it and hit something and went straight over the handle bars," Damien Grabham said.

"I saw Cyril coming the wrong way, he was lost and we rode for 20 minutes together. I'm not happy and I'm really sore."

Shane Diener, mounted on the Yamaha WR450F, charged to third in the standings despite having to ride conservatively in the morning session to save fuel. After his fall on day two, Diener damaged his larger capacity tank and the team had to fit a slightly smaller on for today's competition. He nursed the bike home in the first stage this morning to a sixth place and then looked to make up the time in the afternoon session where fuel usage wasn't an issue.

He then rode exactly as planned to take the stage win and climb from fourth to third in the overall standings.

"Because the morning stage was over 240ks with no fuel stop and I had the smaller tank on, I had to watch how much fuel I was using and really took it easy in the last 50ks. Fortunately, there was a fuel stop in the afternoon ride and I was able to push harder and ride all the way to the finish," Diener commented about his day.

"Tomorrow the plan is to keep the pressure on and ride the way that I did this afternoon and try to peg back the leaders," he concluded.

For Diener's team-mate Rod Faggotter it was mind over matter as he battled against what he suspects as a broken knuckle on his left hand from his fall yesterday morning. But Faggotter put the pain behind him and logged two consistent sessions on day three to take seventh in the morning and then third in the afternoon to climb three spots to fourth overall in the event.

"Today was a better day than yesterday," states Faggotter. "My hand hurts when I hit some of those bumps out there at top speed so I have to watch that, but otherwise it was a smooth day for us while some of our competitors ran into trouble."

It was a rough day for Matt Fish as well. He moved from fifth position yesterday to receiving a one-hour penalty today.

"I'm alive but that's about it. About 50km before refuel it all went pear-shaped. The rear mousse (tyre) blew and I rode into refuel on the rim. I took a new tyre at refuel and have been penalised two hours," Fish said.

Young UK rider Sam Sunderland was back on the bike after a day recouperating yesterday under medical orders.

"I felt alright today and my riding a lot better than the last few days. I made a few navigational errors and I've realised that I've been pushing it too hard and need to focus more on reading the road book," Sunderland said. "I had a small crash today, nothing major, and luckily no kangaroos."

Quad rider Paul Smith's chance of retaining his 2010 title is over after breaking a leg on the last stage.

Colin Lawson loved the day and retained his number one position in the quads.

"They were perfect quad tracks today, I had a ball. We had a few little issues with a flat tyre and problems with the sway bar that made the bike feel like a canoe."

The course stays around the Laverton area tomorrow with a looped course that starts and finishes in the old gold mining town for a massive 660km over three competitive stages.

Laverton is the starting point for the 2800km Outback Way that connects Western Australia to Winton in Queensland through the central Australian Desert via Alice Springs.

Main Photo: Todd Smith

Overall Standings- Day Three
1st Todd Smith (Honda) 12.47:10
2nd Jacob Smith (Honda) 12.57:49
3rd Shane Diener (Yamaha) 13.01:35
4th Rod Faggotter (Yamaha) 13.10:27
5th Damien Grabham (Husberg) 13.26:27
6th Cyril Despres (KTM) 13.31:27
7th Matt Fish (KTM) 13.40:59
8th Ben Williams (Honda) 14.09:36
9th David Schwarz (Husberg) 14.19:04
10th David Geeves (Honda) 14.50:58

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