This year the “Personal Dakar Argentina Chile” has attracted a record number of Australian competitors. On two wheels or four, they might even improve the quality of the performance through sheer strength of numbers. Their best men have set their sights on the Top 10.
The movement is on the march. In the next edition of the Dakar a record will already have been broken with the issue of technical and administrative scrutineering, since eight vehicles driven by Australians are expected at the start of Buenos Aires.
It is in the motorcycle category that we can observe a real upsurge from the other end of the world, with six machines already committed and four new participants in the rally.
Apart from anything else these four wild rovers make up the first 100% Australian team in the Dakar, GHR Honda, in which they aim to make their presence felt on the track.
Armed with the experience gained in the Australasian Safari Rally, the benchmark event in their part of the planet, the “Aussies” are pinning their hopes on the youngest among them to join battle with the best in the discipline.
Their spearhead, little wizard Jacob Smith, will be only 22 years old when he come to the start of the Dakar, but his victory in the 2009 Safari gives him all the confidence of a champion in the making.
Jacob Smith says: “My goal is to finish in the Top 10. And this year I’m here just to learn the ropes. Then I’ll be trying to score a better result!” Sure of his grounds, go-getter Jacob still concedes certain limits as regards global positioning navigation: “now you mention it, I’ve never used GPS up to now!”
“In that respect much is expected of both cars. However, Bruce Garland and navigator Hiroaki Suzuki sport some impressive feathers in their caps, with an overall 11th place in the first South American edition of the Dakar, in 2009.”
“Since which time the words of the driver, incidentally now five-time winner of the Safari, ring out loud and clear as a warning to all the outsiders in the rally: “our goal is to finish in the Top 10 and to be the first in line for the million dollars.”
The Australians in the Dakar 2011 :
Motorcycles: Mark Davidson, Simon Harslett, Simon Pavey, Andrew Scott, Jacob Smith, Warren Strange
Auto rally: Bruce Garland – Hiroaki Suzuki, Geoffrey Olholm – Steve Riley