Most of the usual suspects were on the entry list for the traditional dirtshifters Easter parade held at Condobolin in central NSW but a recent operation denied Rod Faggotter the opportunity to take the event's first hat-trick and an even more recent 'get-off' spoiled Tom Jacobson's chance to repeat last year's podium. But 'Desert King' Ben Grabham was back after a four-year absence. Ben was bracketed by older brother Damien and younger brother Broc - on his first cross-country rally.
It was GHR's Jake Smith who won the prologue which put him first out of the box on Saturday's leg. Eight hours and 400km later, it was his brother (reigning Safari champion, Todd) in first place; more than two minutes ahead of Ben Grabham's KTM 500EXC and Yamaha's Dave Geeves a further 90 seconds in arrears. Back in fourth, Jake's well sorted Honda CRF450X was holding out Shane Diener's three-day-old Yamaha WR450F.
Todd Smith emerged the victor after a hard-fought battle.
Shane Diener finished in second place behind Todd.
Five riders, three podiums. Something had to give, and it did. With clear air, Todd managed to keep Ben in his dust, despite a little bar-banging on the faster open stretches. But when Todd stopped for a 'splash and dash', Ben, carrying more fuel, flashed past. Shortly after, at better than 170km/h Ben clobbered a small kangaroo standing no higher than the metre-tall grass.
Todd was first on the scene, closely followed by brother Jake and Shane Diener, both of whom had cleared Dave Geeves. The lads eventually resumed the battle, but the magic had dissipated. Once compassionate time had been calculated, Todd maintained a clear lead with Shane narrowly beating Jake for second and leaving Dave Geeves (now with a total of four fourth places) wondering what it takes to get a foot on the podium.
Todd's brother, Jake, rounded out the podium
Damien Grabham, running sixth at the time of Ben's accident, stayed with his brother and was a subsequent DNF. We've confirmed that Ben broke his wrist, shoulder and three vertebra, but has done no permanent damage.
PROVISIONAL TOP TEN
1. Todd Smith
2. Shane Diener
3. Jake Smith
4. David Geeves
5. Brad Jones
6. Todd Ridley
7. Luke Buckland
8. Jim Thomas
9. Paul Riley
10. Don Lark