New Zealander Sarah Twaddle is set to become just the twelfth female driver to ever tackle the Australasian Safari when she takes her Mitsubishi Evolution Pajero to the start line in Kalgoorlie on August 23.

While eight woman have entered the event on a bike and other woman have been co-drivers, Twadle will become part of a small club to tackle Australia’s most gruelling motorsport event.

The chance to take part in her first Australasian Safari is a dream come true for the Kiwi.

Twaddle and co-driver, Damian Grahame, will be part of a two-car team, with the second car driven by Jason Pearce, with Sarah’s father, Brent Twaddle, in his navigator’s seat. The team will have five people following the rally to service both the cars and the crews.

While the concept of spending spare time among the ruggedness, dust and mud of an off-road rally in outback Australia may seem extreme for most, the Christchurch twenty-five-year-old can’t wait.

“I have been following the Australasian Safari since my father became involved with helping run and organise this great event,” Twaddle said.

“The two of us always dreamed that we would one day do this event together as a father-daughter team, but I never thought it would be with me driving in one vehicle and him navigating in another.”

Twaddle has competed as a navigator in the last two ‘Condo 750’ rallies in outback New South Wales, so competition isn’t new to her.

“I have been brought up on motorsport from a very early age, with my parents organising New Zealand's biggest off-road rally in Omarama and Twizel (in the South Island) for many years.”

However, driving in this style of event will present a completely new experience for Twaddle. She will be behind the wheel of a recently imported Mitsubishi Evolution Pajero in the Australasian Safari and compete in the A1-1 Production 4X4 class.

While the vehicle is only lightly modified, it will have all the safety equipment fitted, including a full six-point roll cage. Competition Proflex suspension is also being installed by the Sydney-based Roo Racing team.

Whether you’re a male or a female, competing in an arduous event like the Australasian Safari is hard work, and competitors face many challenges along the way. For Twaddle, her biggest challenge will be getting used to the Pajero.

“I will only see the car the day before the rally, so I won’t know how it handles,” she says. “The first couple of days we will just go steady and pick the pace up as the event goes on. The WA sand will be a challenge too, as we have nothing like it in New Zealand.

“The next biggest challenge is that I am gluten sensitive, and it will be interesting trying to find a good meal.”

The goal of getting to the finish will be paramount for Twaddle across the seven days of competition.

“In this kind of event the first goal is always to finish. But mostly, it is about showing everyone that a female can compete with the boys, and keep up with them - especially a New Zealand female, who works front-line in a hotel every other day.”

It’s likely that Twaddle will beat many of her male counterparts in the event as well, something she often achieves when racing go-karts back home in New Zealand.

Before she can celebrate such a feat, however, there are seven days of driving and around 3000 kilometers of competitive stages to contend with.

Starting in Kalgoorlie on Saturday, August 23, the Australasian Safari is expected to attract a strong field of competitors. After leaving the gold mining town, it visits Sandstone, Meekatharra, Mt Magnet and Geraldton, before finishing in Perth on Saturday, August 30.
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