Two-Weel at­tack on sa­fari

A fa­ther-and-son team ral­lies to Craig Lown­des, writes Mark Hinch­liffe

Herald Sun - Motoring - - What’s On -

CRAIG Lown­des will re­dou­ble his ef­forts to de­fend his inaugural Aus­tralian Sa­fari win next year. The four-time Bathurst win­ner has con­firmed that he and co-driver Kees Weel, of the Gold Coast, plan to com­pete again next year, pos­si­bly with a two-car team.

‘‘Kees is adamant that he wants to do it,’’ says Lown­des, who won the Septem­ber race in his first at­tempt.

‘‘He’s al­ready bought a sec­ond Colorado and is go­ing to start rip­ping it apart over Christ­mas and get­ting it up to spec. We just need to se­cure the fund­ing and get the sup­port to carry it through.’’

Lown­des says Weel’s son and for­mer V8 Su­per­car driver Paul would drive the sec­ond car.

The fa­ther-and-son team com­peted in the 2009 rally, but failed to fin­ish be­cause of me­chan­i­cal prob­lems. Paul didn’t race this year be­cause his wife was about to give birth.

Lown­des says he ex­pects Kees will con­tinue to be his nav­i­ga­tor, even if they en­ter a two-car team.

‘‘We had this dis­cus­sion be­tween the three of us and I raised that ques­tion who would have him (as co­driver) and Paul’s re­sponse was, ‘You can have him’. Maybe they fight too much,’’ he says.

The two Colorado rally cars will be iden­ti­cal with the same driv­e­line and sus­pen­sion.

‘‘It’s a proven car that’s easy to copy,’’ Lown­des says. ‘‘Ex­pand­ing to a two-car team is easy, but ex­pen­sive. You need more trans­porta­tion, more me­chan­ics, more per­son­nel and more spares.

‘‘There is a lot more or­gan­i­sa­tion to be done yet to get to that point.’’

Sa­fari or­gan­is­ers have not of­fi­cially set­tled on dates for next year’s event, but it is ex­pected to be held on the same week­end as this year, which would be straight af­ter the Phillip Is­land en­durance round on Septem­ber 16-18.

‘‘So long as it doesn’t clash with the V8 cal­en­dar, I’ll be there,’’ he says.

Lown­des also con­firms he wants to com­pete in the gru­elling Dakar Rally in South Amer­ica as early as 2012.

‘‘Def­i­nitely I’d be keen and I’m sure Kees would be keen for it,’’ he says.

‘‘It’s just a mat­ter of do­ing it prop­erly. We don’t want to go over there with a half-hearted at­tempt but with good equip­ment.

‘‘This style of car doesn’t suit the Dakar. You need a diesel-en­gine ve­hi­cle. You can get away with it here but not at Dakar.’’

Next month Aus­tralia will field the biggest con­tin­gent yet to com­pete in a Dakar Rally, with two car teams and five mo­tor­cy­cle rid­ers.

Lown­des says the grow­ing in­ter­est in Aus­tralians com­pet­ing in the world’s tough­est motorsport race will aid their ef­forts to put to­gether a team to com­pete in the event.

‘‘There seems to be more in­ter­est ev­ery year, so that should help us with fund­ing and sup­port,’’ he says.

Win­ning duo: Craig Lown­des and Kees Weel in this year’s Aus­tralian Sa­fari.

Pic­ture: Of­froad Im­ages

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