John Hederics continues to stretch his lead after the fifth leg of the Australasian Safari in Western Australia
The vast and remote pastoral station of Bidgemia in the Gascoyne region hosted 448km of competition and although the country hospitality was warm and friendly, the course was just the opposite.
Hederics in a Holden Colorado has a comfortable lead of 47 minutes over Rob Herridge in a Subaru Forrester, which continues to punch above its weight. Reg Owen held his third place gained yesterday after a solid drive in the Nissan Patrol.
“There were a lot of gutters it was really rough and tough, we drove carefully to preserve the car, we backed off and consolidated,” said Hederics.
Reg Owen said they enjoyed the day. “The first stage was nice and rough, I had to stop twice to bolt up the exhaust but other than that we had a good run. It was a long second stage and I'm knackered but it's all good and the car is going great.
The moto lead has been held by Jake Smith with Warren Strange still in pursuit. Brother Vern Strange is out of podium contention after a mechanical issue forced him out of the second stage.
This brings Ivan Erceg to third with South African rider Brett Cummings, also on Honda, taking the Dakar Challenge lead.
The Dakar Challenge dream is over for Dutch rider Alex van Heertum. He came off his bike and was met within minutes by the medical team, flown to the Safari bivouac, and driven by the medics to Carnarvon Hospital and is in a stable condition. American rider Michael Johnson, also a Dakar Challenge contender, broke his arm after coming off his bike and has been flown by the Royal Flying Doctor Service to Perth for treatment. The Dakar Challenge will now be fought between Brett Cummings, Melchior van Heertum and Guy Henley, Russell Scoble, Todd Smith and Vern Strange.
Jake Smith said had a good day and won the first stage and retained a 28-minute lead.
”I took it easy and didn't have to push. My only drama was the battery died in the automatic scroll so I had to scroll it by hand for the last 250km. It was a fun stage, technical, and had everything – washaways, creeks…I enjoyed it.”
Paul Smith still comfortably holds the Quad lead with almost an hour to spare but he said today wasn't without drama.
“50km into the last stage today I lost my front brakes, so I had to ride 250km with no brakes! I had a few sketchy moments, there were close calls with gutters and I couldn't pull the quad up fast enough – I was having memories of last year when I broke my leg. Otherwise the stages were awesome and technical.”
Tomorrow the Australasian Safari competition moves to Jimba Jimba Station, Winderie Station, Wooramel River, Hamelin on the coast between Carnarvon and Kalbarri and then south to the Murchison river finishing in Kalbarri. The 431km of competitive stages includes red dunes, fences, saltbush flats, river crossings and typical rough outback station roads.