Desert King off the road

John Hed­er­ics is af­ter his 10th ti­tle, writes STEPHEN OT­T­LEY

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Motorsport -

THE tough­est mo­tor rac­ing in the coun­try be­gins to­mor­row with the Aus­tralasian Sa­fari. Start­ing in Kal­go­or­lie, the week-long event cov­ers 4300km of the West Aus­tralian Out­back in a test for cars and crews.

Holden is lead­ing the at­tack on the event with its re­vamped Colorado ute and de­fend­ing Sa­fari win­ner John Hed­er­ics.

The Colorado will be run by the PWR/Holden Rally Team. Team owner Kees Weel will be get­ting hands-on with the pro­gram and act as Hed­er­ics’ nav­i­ga­tor.

The 55-year-old Weel is more fa­mous th­ese days in V8 Su­per­car cir­cles, but has long ties to of­froad rac­ing. He won the Sa­fari in 1995 when he was nav­i­gat­ing Doug Man­war­ing, and he ran of­froad races with his son Paul be­fore they en­tered V8 Su­per­cars.

‘‘John and I started this event to­gether 11 years ago and I wanted to do the event again be­fore I get too old,’’ Weel says.

The Colorado is an up­dated ver­sion of Hed­er­ics’ win­ning Rodeo from last year. It is pow­ered by a V8 en­gine and its sus­pen­sion has been im­proved to cope with the chal­lenges thrown up by the WA ter­rain.

The Colorado also has im­proved fuel econ­omy and a lower cen­tre of grav­ity com­pared with last year’s win­ning ma­chine.

‘‘The big­gest chal­lenge is the Out­back ter­rain. It’s much tougher with big­ger rocks and gut­ters, so there will be a greater em­pha­sis on ve­hi­cle dura­bil­ity and the role of the nav­i­ga­tor,’’ says Hed­er­ics, a nine-time win­ner of the event. But he’ll face strong com­pe­ti­tion to keep his ti­tle — 22 cars are in the auto di­vi­sion. Off-road rac­ing stal­wart Bruce Gar­land has en­tered in his Isuzu DMAX as part of his prepa­ra­tion for next year’s Dakar Rally. Targa Tas­ma­nia reg­u­lar Tony Quinn is en­tered in a Mit­subishi Pa­jero.

Dust buster: John Hed­er­ics will try for his fourth straight Aus­tralasian Sa­fari ti­tle in a Holden Colorado.

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