The inaugural Northern Territory Cannonball Run was held from 22 to 27 May 1994 on the Stuart Highway (National Highway 87) from Darwin to Alice Springs and return, a distance of nearly 1600 kilometers, and attracted 142 racing enthusiasts from all over the world with their expensive machines, including Porsches, Ferraris, Chevrolet Corvettes, Ford Mustangs, Lamborghinis and suchlike. The event was marred by a fiery accident that resulted in the deaths of four men, two competitors, and two officials.
The 1994 race was organised by Allan Horsley for Racecage Pty Ltd, a company associated to former touring car champion Alan Moffat, and was sanctioned by CAMS (Confederation of Australian Motor Sport). It included three distinct driving phases within the one event. These were the "flying miles", the timed sections and, covering by far the greatest distance, normal, everyday driving during which there was no competitive element. The "flying mile" was a car's acceleration test with cars crossing the starting line at 60 km/h and 1600 meters later their speed was recorded by radar, with points awarded accordingly. The timed sections of the run were approximately 100-kilometer stretches to which set time was applied. Cannonballers lost points on these sections by arriving either too late or too early by more than three minutes. While these sections of the run were happening, the road was open to regular traffic, although police swept the road ahead, side roads were manned and the travelling public and commercial vehicles were warned. During these sections, as throughout the run, Cannonball competitors were subject to the same laws as anyone else. It is to be pointed out, though, that in the Northern Territory doesn't exist a specified speed limit on the open road.
Around 09h30 on Tuesday, 24 May 1994, during one of the not timed displacement stages near Alice Springs, the race leading Ferrari F40 #27 owned by Akihiro Kabe, a millionaire Japanese dentist, went out of control coming too fast into a checkpoint where he had to stop. The car crashed into the two officials who were manning the checkpost, killing them both almost instantly. They were Keith Pritchard, aged 31, and Tim Linklater, 22. The car left the road into gravel, spin back onto the bitumen and then slide backwards into a parked Jeep. In consequence of the accident also its two occupants, Akihiro Kabe, 40, and his co-driver Takeshi Okano, 35, lost their lives. According to the event's chief medical officer, Kabe was killed on the spot, and Okano, suffering severe head injuries, died minutes later, while being treated by at the scene.
It is not clear how fast the Ferrari was travelling at the time of the accident. It occurred on the Stuart Highway, 95 kilometers South of Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia, about thirty minutes after the start of the third stage of the six-day event.
An inquest found that the direct cause of the accident was driver error on the part of the Japanese team which entered the checkpoint at an excessive speed. The Ferrari F40 was travelling behind a Holden Commodore that obscured the view of the road ahead. The driver Kabe noticed the checkpoint, which was located at the end of a wide corner, at the last minute and turned to enter the checkpoint lane, but lost control on the loose gravel surface, and crashed.
Akihiro Kabe/Takeshi Okano|
|Event||Northern Territory Cannonball Run|
Timothy Douglas Linklater (track official)
Keith Alan Pritchard (track official)
|Photo Credit||aussieexotics.com; Canberra Times; Derek Moore, Motor; Northern Territory News; The Daily Telegraph; Wheels|
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