Owen, Cairns sixth in class at Australasian Safari

WARRNAMBOOL off-road racers Reg Owen and Russell Cairns have capped their 18th Australasian Safari with an auto division top 10 result. 

The pair — Owen behind the wheel and Cairns as his navigator — clocked 25 hours, 46 minutes and 46 seconds for the eight-day event in Western Australia’s outback.

They were sixth, three hours, 14 minutes and 35 seconds behind the winn-ing Queenslanders Geoff Olhom and Gordon Trigg.

Owen, speaking from the Nullarbor Plain on Sunday en route to Warrnambool, said he was pleased with the result in the No. 115 2004 Nissan Patrol.

They were one of 15 finishers in the auto division, from 25 starters, but dropped three places from their 2012 effort.

“The only thing we came away with was we’re the oldest crew so we won the masters’ division,” Owen said.

“A few went too quick for us. It’s a pretty hot competition. The quality of cars has really come up.

“The guy who won it (Olholm), he got 11th outright at (the) Dakar (Rally), which is a pretty good feat for an Australian.”

The safari started with a seven-kilometre prologue at Jurien Bay, 220 kilometres north of Perth.

The seven legs, which included two or three stages each day, then took in Northampton, Kalbarri, Gascoyne Junction, Carnarvon and Geraldton.

Competitors clocked up about 3200 kilometres for the week, of which 2400 was competitive racing.

Owen said he and Cairns suffered two minor problems, despite covering some of the harshest terrain in the country.

“We found our car’s use-by date is just about up, compared to what they’re running now. But we still finished,” he said.

“Fortunately the only problems we had were one flat tyre and in the second-last stage our gearbox decided it didn’t want to come out of third gear for a while.

“But other than that we had a fairly trouble-free run. All your luck is created in the workshop before you go.

“We didn’t even break a windscreen and in some events you might break two windscreens in a day.”

Owen also sat out driving in leg five on Wednesday as dehydration from the day before took its toll, prompting his son Glenn to take control.

He said he was contemplating retiring from the sport — “my use-by date is nearly up as well” — but would not declare himself finished yet.

“You never say never. I’ve pulled up OK overall.  I feel a lot better now than when I started the event,” he said.

The Safari experienced one death when Perth moto competitor Ivan Erceg crashed 50 kilometres east of Minilya during leg five on Wednesday.

The fatality prompted organisers to cancel the remaining two stages of leg five and the first stage of leg six on Thursday.

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