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The finish line celebrations on Kalbarri Foreshore were a mixture of happiness, relief and sadness for Australasian Safari competitors and organisers on Saturday. This group of 127 competitors are likely to be the last entrants to race the iconic motorsport event, a few of whom such as Bruce Garland, Steve Riley and Jim Cairns were also entrants in the first Safari in 1985.

The navigational rally took the cars, bikes, and side by side buggies through their paces in a variety of terrain, from the harsh red desert of Western Australia’s Mid-West and Pilbara, to the sandy dunes and coastal scrub of the Coral Coast. The 2014 route was a true test of endurance, with competitors and event officials travelling over 3,500 kilometres in seven days.

Dubbed the Murchison Mega Finale, Leg 7 was 155 kilometres of mettle testing terrain - the final test of resilience for both car and competitor.  Those final kilometres subjected competitors to the lot - from twists and turns, to fast straights, solid rock, sand, pindan, mud and corrugated tracks. Those who reached the flying finish were rewarded with breathtaking views of the Murchison River.

From Leg 1, it was a tight and highly competitive race for the Auto category, with the vehicles of Steve Riley and John Doble, Dave McShane and Bill Hayes, Greg Scanlon and Liam Nunns and John Purshouse and Murray Hynes all exchanging top three places at some point.

Defending champion Rod Faggotter has held the Moto outright lead throughout the seven days, winning eleven of the fifteen stages. American Baja champion Quinn Cody has never been far behind, consistently posting a top four time in each stage.

Dakar Challenge entrant, Ian Blythe, had a successful first navigational rally, continuously keeping a good buffer of time between himself and his fellow challenge contenders.

Auto section

Nail biting to the finish, only 45 seconds separated Steve Riley and Dave McShane when they went into the final leg on Saturday. Just under half way through the stage, only a minute still separated the pair when Steve Riley and John Doble’s Riley Motorsports VF Holden Commodore Ute slid off the track at high speed and became bogged in mud.

“I said at the beginning it would end in tears and those tears are mine,” said Riley. “We were all driving way too hard.

“You should have seen this guy,” said co-driver Doble. “I’ve never seen someone work so hard. He was digging and digging to get the car out of the mud.”

The off, caused the team who had been leading for most of the week, to end up with third place on the podium. “We tried all week to get in a position where we could play our poker hand, but sadly it wasn’t to be,” Riley said.

“We are very proud of the car we have built at home in the back shed with some mates. We’d love to take this very Australian vehicle overseas to compete in Dakar one day.”

Second place was secured by Greg Scanlon and Liam Nunns in the ARB Bendigo Nissan Patrol by just ten minutes over third place Riley Motorsports.

“I can’t believe the weather carnage today. The rain came in and we crossed rivers three feet deep. We came across Steve Riley and did our best to recover him out of the mud, but eventually said ‘mate, we have to go’. At that stage we didn’t know where we were placed. We didn’t find out we came second until ten minutes ago,” said Scanlon.

“We were consistent this week and that’s all we needed to do. Safari has been one of those goals I’ve had for a long time, not only to race in the event but to get on the podium. Today was unexpected.”

It was an emotional win for Dave McShane and Bill Hayes in the DMack Desert Racing Toyota Tacoma. Dave had a tear in his eye as he stepped onto the podium. “I can’t put it into words. It was such a battle to get here.  It still hasn’t fully registered. I’m so glad to finally achieve this,” McShane said.

“Today’s navigation was not as hard as other stages this week. We were lucky that the more rain we got today, the faster we drove.

“It’s been a team effort. Every single person in the team had a goal to win this event and we all drove it towards that goal.”

The Australasian Safari is known as Australia’s version of ‘Dakar’ and attracts top endurance motorsport competitors from around the world. Competitors embark on the seven day rally on September 19, and travel over 3,500kms through the Western Australian outback before crossing the finish line on Kalbarri Foreshore on September 27.

For the full list of results please refer to www.rallyresults.com.au/safari2014.

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