If the vehicles in the Australasian Safari could talk, they’d be begging for a rest day after five gruelling days in the Western Australian outback, but despite this the top three positions held yesterday by Lowndes, Green and Garland remain intact after today’s 411km Leg.

Lowndes and Weel in their Holden Colorado retained their first place position, and were on track to build their lead until they hit a stump on the first stage with 50km still to go.

“We bent the left hand rear suspension and survived that and the boys did a great job fixing it in the service.  We were well set up for the second stage but we had an exhaust leak,” Lowndes said.

“It was a tough day in all.  There were a lot of first gear corners, and a lot of different terrain.  We had to pass a few bikes and that’s a hazard in itself.   We were in their dust and looking for instructions and hazards and then there’s the bikes coming out of the dust - they can catch you out.  

“My plan is to try to maintain the gap tomorrow which will set us up for Saturday, which should be a shorter day, a kind of celebration.”

Darren Green and Wayne Smith retained their second fastest position, despite their Nissan Patrol also encountering a tree.

“The first stage was really overgrown.  We sideswiped a tree from front to back on the left side.  The back passenger door was flapping around for about 10km before we noticed and got out to shut it,” said co-driver Wayne Smith.

“In part of the second stage there was regrowth the height of the car. We missed a corner and got lost instantly.  I had to get out of the car and run around in the dust to find the track.  

“Those were the only two times that we had to get out of the car.  We’re going to change the radiator overnight but other than that there is nothing we need to do to the car.  

“We enjoyed the scenery.  When we came around the edge of the lake we wished we could stop and have a cup of tea and enjoy it!”

Safari veteran Bruce Garland and Harry Suzuki had an early challenge on their hands when a drive shaft snapped early in the first stage and they were forced to make a repair on the run, but they managed to hang on to third fastest position.  

“I just took the whole thing out and continued another 200km using 2WD.   We also had three punctures.  

“But we were back by the second stage and will be coming out strong tomorrow.”

The Cairns Coconut Racing Crew of Geoff Olholm and John Doble had a huge day, claiming second fastest time in the second stage but also found driving through the young trees in Special Stage 12 a huge challenge.

“We got a bit bushwhacked with the saplings in the regrowth area.  It was like being in a cornfield.  We were driving through it and it rebounded and we couldn’t see where we’d been. We also caught Bruce’s dust.

“I don’t know what we hit, but the navigator’s passenger door was flapping around.  We had to cable tie it shut,” co-driver Doble said.

Tomorrow is the penultimate day of Safari 2010 and competitors will ride south to the beautiful coastal town of Esperance, with sand dunes likely to be prominent as the event moves closer to the Southern Ocean.

Considered one of the world’s great endurance events, the Australasian Safari is travelling from Southern Cross in the wheatbelt through to the historic Western Australian goldfields, desert, rugged bush and coastal sand dunes.

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