Australasian Safari kicks off Friday
Thai Rachan Trairat during the Australasian Safari ending in Laverton, Western Australia. Picture: Sabine Albers

It's among the foremost challenges in world motorsport - the annual off-road rally for four-wheel-drives, motorcycles and quad bikes, set in the wild terrain of outback WA.

The Australasian Safari, renowned as our answer to the famous Dakar Rally, gets under way on Friday from Hillarys Boat Harbour and runs for eight tortuous days and 3000km of relentless mayhem, finishing in Geraldton on September 29.

The 27th running of the event has attracted interest from the globe's best in the UK, the US, South Africa, the Netherlands, Italy, Thailand and Venezuela.

The extreme enduro moves away from the dust and fence lines of previous years, taking a new shorter course featuring some spectacular coastal stages.

This year technically challenging and rough territory forces combatants to race at a lower average speed in a rare opportunity as the course traverses mainly private, and otherwise inaccessible, land.

From Perth, competitors head up the coast to Geraldton, through the Wheatbelt and Murchison then on to Carnarvon, slicing inland through the Gascoyne region, skirting the Kennedy Ranges before turning back to the finish line in Geraldton.

Competition categories include Auto, Moto, Quad and, new this year, SxS (side by side).

An Adventure Tour, which has attracted 20 entries, is a non-competitive category for motos and quads. The highest- placed moto rider in a new Dakar Challenge class gets free entry into Dakar 2013.

Other categories include the Production class and a Safari Challenge, which allows road-registered 4WDs to enter the competition elements without the need for a competition vehicle.

Entrants don't find out the course until the night before each leg, when riders get their navigation scrolls and drivers their road books.

The bikes and quads face the biggest challenge, having to race and navigate at the same time, moving their scrolls forward to follow the navigation signs and instructions.

Autos may have the advantage of a navigator but they can often get it wrong.

Event director Justin Hunt sets the course six months in advance.

Land-use permission is then sought and details tweaked, before the course is mapped and road books prepared.

Riders set out first each day, followed by drivers and then quads, in a timed start.

Competitors will be leaving from 4pm through to 8.30pm on Friday and the race finishes at Geraldton Senior College from midday the following Saturday.

For more information visit australasiansafari.com.au. Updates are on Facebook and Twitter at @austsafari and check out last year's event on YouTube channel - AustralasianSafari.

The West Australian

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