Sixty four teams ventured to Smithy's Place at Hyden, 4 hours East of Perth, to test man and machine against the clock and the harsh Western Australian outback.
The event, sponsored by ARB and Pinjarra Engineering offered over 400 competitive kilometres, providing the opportunity for a number of awesome battles to develop.
With dust in the air, the prologue was underway on Saturday morning in the purpose built arena at Smithy's Place. After a long off season, the buggies, trucks and 4WD's were itching to get away from the line. Blasting over the jumps and down the straights, they created an awesome spectacle for the crowd that lined the fences.
Dave Fellows dominated the prologue and Top Ten Shoot Out, knocking 12 seconds off his first prologue time in the Shoot Out run to clock a cash-winning time of 7min 41 seconds, securing pole position ahead of the Pro class buggies of Rentsch, Bentley, Milburn and Prout.
Brad Gallard was the quickest of the Extreme 2WD's, punching his American built Gieser Bros. Trophy Truck around in 9min and 1 sec to secure 20th overall. Current Production 4WD class champion, Geoff Pickering, kicked his year off with a good start in the Falken Tyres backed Mitsubishi Pajero, locking in a 9min 18 sec pass to start 24th on the road. Pickering's time was impressive considering he was 7 sec faster than the nearest Extreme 4WD, a V8 Nissan Patrol driven by Mark Murray.
In contrast to the extremely dusty prologue, mud was the element the drivers had to overcome in the first section.
The heavens opening as the offroaders set off a point to point race from the pits at Smithy's Place to Hyden and back. As the crews rolled in to Hyden, it was David Fellows in the TRD Jimco that had made the best of the slippery conditions. Opening up a significant lead of former Australian Champ, Shannon Rentsch. His tyre choice, BFGoodrich Baja's finding significantly more traction in the mud. On the return leg, Rentsch closed the gap ever so slightly but would still start Sundays 5 laps second on the grid. The thundering V8's of Bentley and Prout were well positioned in 3rd and 4th, with Eric Phillips not far behind. Pickering's Pajero and Spencers International Scout were neck to neck in 22nd and 23rd outright, with less than 30 seconds splitting the pair over the 126km section.
Sunday saw the racecars released to tackle the first 3 laps of the 48km track just 15 seconds apart. Fellows led the pack away and added 40 second buffer to his overnight lead.
Rentsch was snapping at his heels and back through the field, smaller battles were developing. Bentley and Prout were going hammer and tong in their V8 Jimcos, while some of offroad racings rising stars Travis Milburn and Travis Robinson were knocking on the doors of the established heirachy. Pickering had worked his way up to 15th, ahead on many more powerful buggies. While behind him the ex-works Jackaroo of Garry Povah, Mark Murrays Patrol and Trevor Spencers Scout were have a titanic tussle for the Extreme 4WD Class lead.
With two laps remaining Fellows was in the box seat, however it wasn't long before disaster struck with an oil line failure ending his run to the finish. Leaving Shannon and Ian Rentsch, who had kept the pressure on all day the opportunity to grasp the lead and take the chequered flag. Completing the 400km race in 3 hours 50 minutes and 5 seconds. Behind Rentsch, the heat was on Brad Prout for second place as Hayden Bentley made a charge to the finish. But Brad was up to the task keeping the current Australian Champion at bay to secure second outright by half a minute.
While the proclass buggies had set the outright pace, the full size trophy truck of Brad Gallard wasn't far behind. Keeping the crowd entertained as he flew to victory in the Extreme 2WD Class and seventh outright. Geoff Pickering's Mitsubishi Pajero continued to look unbeatable in the production 4WD Class, finishing 9th, just ahead of Mark Murrays V8 Patrol in 10th outright. Harley Cooke was the quickest of the Performance 2WD's crossing the line in 12th.
The next event of the six round Australian Offroad Racing Championship will be the Donald 500 in Victoria, on May 3/4. All eyes will be on Rentsch, Prout and the reigning
Australian Champion Hayden Bentley as they battle it out to secure vital points for the 2008 Championship.
Australian Offroad Racing Championship Media enquiries:
Randall Kilner - (07) 3899 6637 / 0416 125 564 or [email protected]