The countdown is almost over and the green flag is about to drop on the start of the 2011 Australian Off Road Championship which launches in Western Australia at Easter. After a long off season, Australia’s leading teams are primed to hit the track and tackle the five round championship, which will take them to all corners of the country. Carrying the coveted #1 plate on their twin turbo v6 Jimco, will be 2010 champs David Fellows and Mark Bergamin. The South Australian pair dominated the AORC podium in 2010, with wins at Hyden, Finke and the Pines and a third outright performance at the Griffith 700 endurance race. The team has spent the past few months focusing on their title defence, which kicks off with the first round at Hyden in just a few weeks.
Charged with the task of hunting Fellows down will be a fleet of high horsepower Proclass machinery. Danny Auricht, who finished second outright last year, has just finished rebuilding his mid-engined V8 Jimco after his massive roll over at the Pines in September. While Brad Prout is another who has stayed loyal to V8 power, in a class where twin turbo V6 engines are the current flavour. Prout will be striving to improve on his third outright performance last year in his single seater. A number of former Australian Champions will also be aiming to reclaim some real estate at the top of the leader board. After having a successful debut at the Baroota SA round, 2007 champ, Hayden Bentley will be unleashing his new single seater Racer at Hyden, while five time Australian champion, Shannon Rentsch will be looking to harness the full potential of his twin turbo charged Jimco after a string of bad luck halted his charge last season. Add in to the mix the Robinson brothers, Crowe, Burrows, Owen and company and the pace at the front of the field will be ballistic.
The high level of competition will feature throughout all the offroad classes. The Extreme 4WD Class will come alive with the battle between reigning class champ, Colin Hunter and the Production 4WD young gun, Clayton Chapman. After back to back wins in the Production 4WD Class, Chapman has traded in his Triton on his Dad’s heavily modified Pajero to campaign in the Extreme 4WD Class. While Colin Hunter will be unleashing his state of the art Dodge Dakota in the category. The battle within the 3500cc Prolite Class is another that will continue to rage, with their evenly matched machinery pushing the drivers to the absolute limits.
The Western Australian wheat belt will come alive at Easter with the first round of the championship, the ARB Pinjarra Engineering Hyden 450. Boasting a new format in 2011, the race will now be run over four laps of a 112km loop through Smithy’s Place and some adjoining properties. The new look track incorporates many of the old favourites including the stadium style arena and the stunning series of jumps down Christies Hill.
The high powered buggies, trucks and 4WD’s head to central Australia for the Tattersall’s Finke Desert Race on the Queens Birthday Long Weekend. The second round of the championship will see Fellows head to the start line with a hat trick of “King of the Desert” titles under his belt, and the Peter Kittle Motorsport team are focused on making it four in a row. While the A-Arm buggies have proved to be almost unbeatable over the red desert sands, the big trophy trucks have been knocking on the door. With Brad Gallard blasting the V8 Chevy truck into second outright in 2010, and making it his mission to go one better in 2011.
Griffith burst back on to the national stage for the third round of the championship in 2010 and is primed to continue with its endurance style race format in 2011. The event is not only the longest in the championship, but forces the teams to service and pit in their own time. Removing the sprint race element which is a feature of the other rounds and bringing strategy in to play as the drivers balance outright speed with endurance. Glenn Owen played his cards perfectly to take the win in 2010, locking away a trifecta of Griffith wins in the process and will head into this years “Bathurst of the bush” as one of the favourites.
The Pines Enduro held in the Pines forests surrounding Millicent in South Australia will be the fourth cab off the rank in September. The event combines the stadium style arena at Teagle’s Quarry with the fast tree lined tracks of the Tantanoola State Forests to produce an exciting race, not for the faint hearted. The Dash for Cash and Top Ten Shoot Out on Saturday afternoon will continue to be one of the spectating highlights of the season, as the offroad race cars not only battle for the cash, but the all important bragging rights.
The Goondiwindi 400 held in Queensland during October marks the business end of the AORC season and has traditionally determined the overall winner of the championship. Cancelled in 2010 due to severe flooding in the region, the event is destined to attract a high quality entry field for it’s return. With drivers not only keen to wage war with one of the most exciting drivers tracks of the championship, but with each other as they battle for the final handful of championship points on offer.
Rd 1 Hyden – WA 22-24 April (Easter)
Rd 2 Alice Springs – NT 10-13 June
Rd 3 Griffith – NSW 22-24 July
Rd 4 Millicent – SA 2-4 September
Rd 5 Goondiwindi – Qld 14-16 October