The Gascoyne Dash is an awesome desert racing challenge across some of the harshest and remote country in Australia. Situated between the seaside town of Carnarvon and Gascoyne Junction WA the Dash pits car against car and bike against bike and then the quickest of each against each other to determine who will be crowned the “King of the River“.
Through trials and tribulation the Gascoyne Off Road Racing Club have hosted yet another successful Gascoyne Dash®. After the historic floods throughout the Gascoyne region in December 2010, the committee were forced to run a changed format of two 185 kilometre loops around Bidgemia Station at the base of the Kennedy Ranges.
Thirty five cars, sixty four bikes and ten quads ran through scrutiny on Thursday in the centre of the coastal town of Carnarvon. The following day all competitors shook the leaves from the mangroves when Prologue launched from the Carnarvon Racecourse.
Warm days and clear nights treated offroaders to a great weekend. At 7am Saturday morning it was Travis Robinson and Paul Currie in the #13 OBR Jimco who lead the field away to a fast and furious days racing. The attrition rate at this event is traditionally a high one, add the recent shifting of the soils due to flooding and it created and even more challenging circuit than ever before; sharp edged rocks exposed proving tough on man and machine.
The non finishers from day one started dropping one by one with overheating, electrical issues, bogged in unforgiving sand and one or two altercations with trees, being the main causes for 16 of the 35 cars to be listed on the DNF board.
An enthusiastic crowd waited only 2 hours 10 minutes and 22 seconds before the #13OBR Jimco completed the first leg in first place. Locals #68 Justin Steadman/ Saxon Boston in their Pinjarra Engineering BAT Pro racer a popular second with #14 PKMS Jimco of Andrew and Matthew Kittle making their first trip to Gascoyne one to remember, also upon the podium at the completion of day one.
It was then the bikes turn to run their race, the expecting crowd lined the start, all eyes on KTM’s Ben Grabham who launched from the line in poll position. Grabham stated his intentions by lapping the track in 2 hours 12 minutes 33 seconds, bringing home behind him most of the 73 bike and quad competitors in a surprisingly low attrition rate. 2010 champion Warren Kempton placed second and Ivan “Ironman” Erceg was third.
Day two arrived and again #13 OBR Jimco of Travis Robinson and Paul Currie in the #13 OBR Jimco left the line at 7am racing into the rising morning sun. Bad news was cast throughout race headquarters with the announcement of local stars #68 Justin Steadman/ Saxon Boston retiring from the race with a broken gear box while running a strong second. Stable mates #968 Brad Cooper/ Mal Yeardling in the ever improving Pinjarra Engineering BAT racer also out with a broken cam sensor.
On track and in a similar time to day one, Travis Robinson and Paul Currie in the #13 OBR Jimco crossed the line in a flash of speed to meet the chequered flag. Next to cross under the famous Gascoyne /Dash finish line were Western Australian champions Ken Styles/ Josh Ellis in their Chevy powered Holeshot buggy; albeit stuck in third gear, with siblings Andrew and Matthew Kittle in the #14 PKMS Jimco crossing the line in third. Times were combined from both days and the Kittle team just pipped Styles and Ellis for second place overall.
The Final standings read Jimco Robinson/ Currie first in their #13 OBR Jimco Kittle/Kittle #14 PKMS Jimco second and #44 Styles/ Ellis third. Fourth place was taken out by #811 David McShane/ David Villanova in the big V8 Hummer, the #819 Patrol of Greg Pickersgill/ Uwe Kreusch rounded out the top five of the 13 finishers.
The bike start had the crowd on their feet all waiting to see if Ben Grabham could continue his pace throughout day two. A low attrition rate on day one saw a field of 60 leave the line to chase down the multiple Finke and Safari winner. Improving on his time by two minutes and in a calculated trouble free run it was factory KTM rider Ben Grabham who brought home the goods in a gallant and dominating win. In a post race interview he stated, “It was a fun and challenging race track” and promised to return next year. Grabham’s closest comparison to the Dash is the granddaddy of them all, the BAJA 1000.
Ivan “Ironman” Erceg fought hard all day to bring himself and his Honda 450 across the line in a speedy second place. 2010 winner and local favourite Warren Kempton brought the eager crowd to their feet as he appeared out of the river in a well fought third place.
Times over the two days were adjusted and the top of the podium stayed the same with Ben Grabham winning, Kempton in second place (but only just) relegating Erceg to third. Leon Clare rode well all weekend to bring it home in fourth, Terry Crane rounded out the top five of the 56 finishers.
The King of the River is the ultimate prize for any Gas Dash competitor, for many years the cars have taken this one away but in 2011 it was Ben Grabham aboard the KTM who held the perpetual trophy aloft beating all those before him in a total time of 4 hours 21 minutes 24 seconds.
The new format was a challenge for not only competitors and crew but event organisers as well; the small but strong committee must be commended for a great event in 2011 and have already started planning for 2012. Visit www.gasdash.com for full results.
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