2018 BFGoodrich CAMS Australian Off Road Championship
St George - May 4-6    |    Finke - June 8-11    |    Rainbow - August 10-12                  

2018 ARB Australian Off Road Racing Championship
Griffith - March 16-18     |     Mildura - April 20-22     |     Sea Lake - June 08-10     |     Waikerie - July 13-15     |     Goondiwindi - Aug 17-19     |     Millicent - Sept 21-23

Bumper Field for AORC Curtain Raiser
Wednesday, 30 May 2012
Returning to the Australian Off Road Championship calendar for the first time since 1999, the MBL Sea Lake Mallee Rally will see a bumper field of over 110 competitors head to the northern Victorian town of Sea Lake on June 8-10.

After stepping in to fill the void left by the withdrawal of the Tatts Finke Desert Race from the championship, the committee and volunteers of the Sea Lake Off Road Club have spent countless hours preparing the track and facilities for the 39th running of this iconic event, which will be one of the biggest events in recent AORC history.

The track, situated just 7km north of Sea Lake, is an exciting mix of sand, salt pan, clay and grass that runs around Lake Tyrell. With a lap distance of 85 kilometres, AORC competitors will be required to complete five grueling laps of the challenging course for a total distance of 425 kilometres.

1367b_sm The event format is split into two sections, with section one made up of two laps followed by a one hour service break. Competitors will take to the track for section two exactly one hour after they finished their second lap for a further two laps, followed by another service break of 30 minutes before the sprint to the finish with the fifth and final lap.

With the first Championship round of each new season comes uncertainty and 2012 is certainly no different. With some of the regular front runners deciding to contest the Tatts Finke Desert Race, the competition to take an early Championship lead looks to be wide open.

After taking out the event in 2011, South Australian Aaron Haby returns to defend his crown in the #57 Element Off Road teams single seat entry, with teammate and 2011 runner-up Carl Haby with Brenton Gallasch in the navigators seat in the #56 S&S Race Frame machine looking to continue on his good form after taking out the recent Richard Bennett Memorial Enduro in South Australia.

After a promising AORC debut for their new Jimco at the Teagle Excavations ARB Pines Enduro in 2011, the SMU Racing team of Matt Hanson and Leigh Wells head to Sea Lake confident of a strong showing after an off season rebuild and having a new Shane Wilson V6 twin turbo Nissan engine bolted in behind them.

1367c_sm After a limited AORC campaign in 2011 due to family commitments and a successful trip to New Zealand for the Taupo 1000, Brad Prout and the Prout Unicap Racing team will be looking for a strong start to their 2012 campaign, as will Justin and Owen Anderson in the Turbo Nissan Tatum. Also returning to the driver’s seat after a long absence will be Andy Brown in his new Pro class.

As always the ProLite class is sure to be a close fought battle with 2011 class runner ups Wes and Bill Cowie facing stiff opposition from Luke and Vicki Erceg, Tony Fehlhaber and Gary Howell and Garry and Amanda Simpson among many others.

Stephen Burrows will debut the ex-Mark Burrows Jimco in ProLite form, while David and Alice Middlemiss will make their debut in class in the ex-Craig Hoare Cougar. Leading the local charge will be Andrew McClelland and Murray Mott in their Southern Cross.

Reigning Super 1650 champions Darryl Smith and Michael Matthews return to defend their crown with a new look, having spent the long off season completely stripping the Alumicraft. 2011 class runner up Jared Melville and Michael Marson will be looking to go one better in 2012 with a strong first up result in the Australian built Razorback.

The leading two A-Arm buggies are sure to face stiff opposition from the very strong field assembled, including Sea Lake locals Alistair and Andrew McClelland who are always very tough to beat on their home track.

With entries still rolling in, the Sportsman and Performance 2WD classes have limited numbers so far, however, with there still being a week until entries close, these are sure to increase. Sea Lake locals Bernie Clohesy and Kim Stacey in their Chev powered Triton will start as one of the favorites in the Performance 2WD class, with Dean Williams and Scott McInnes in their Sportsman buggy sure to be mixing it up with many of the Super 1650 class vehicles.

1367d_sm Former class champions Chris Western and Stewy Bishop return to one of their favorite tracks to begin their quest to re-claim the Extreme 2WD class mantle in the Mickey Thompson Off Road Rush truck. Making their AORC debut in the new Water Movers Australia MickleFab Trophy Truck will be Mildura's Ivan Robertson will vehicle builder Gavin Mickle in the navigator’s seat. After showing good speed and ironing out some minor technical bugs with their debut run of the truck at the Exact Mining Bentleys Cabin Park Flinders 400, Robertson and Mickle are looking for a good result. However, Kevin Nott and Ben Woodgate in the Toyota Tundra Trophy Truck, along with Peter Sibson and Jason Munro in the Nissan SR20-powered VW, will be among those looking to shake things up a bit.

North Queenslanders Geoff Pickering and Dylan Watson will be looking to kick-off their 2012 campaign with a strong showing in the Production 4WD Mitsubishi Pajero, however, they will again face tough opposition from Robert Chapman and Ross Challacombe in their Mitsubishi Triton.

Having spent last season adjusting to the step-up of the Extreme 4WD class, Clayton Chapman and Adam McGuire will be out to start the new season with a strong result, however they will be up against stiff competition from the always-fast Sandy Bowman and Daniel Hardman in their Nissan Patrol. Colin Hunter and Simon Campbell are sure to be well up the field after spending the 2011 season sorting out the bugs in their new Dodge Dakota.

Event proceedings kick off on Friday night at 5:00pm with scrutiny at the Sea Lake Recreation Reserve in the heart of town. While the crews and event organisers busy themselves with the all-important pre-event checks, spectators, locals and families will be kept entertained with a Show and Shine, jumping castle and merry-go-round for the kids, live band, plenty of food and drinks and spectacular fireworks show. Scheduled to run until 9:00pm, there is sure to be plenty on offer to keep everyone entertained.

Action kicks off on Saturday morning at 10:30am with the running of the 8 kilometre prologue. Following the prologue will be a Swan Hill Windscreens O’Brien Glass Dash for Cash, where the two fastest vehicles from each class will race off for cash prizes without the risk of altering their start positions. Sunday's action kicks off at 9:00am with competitors taking off two at a time for the first of the days five laps.

offroadracing.com.au will be on site streaming the Track PA Commentary and tracking all the happenings with the typed commentary.

Event Information can be found here.aorc.jpg

Author: Randall Kilner
Source: Randall Graphics (PR Division) Pty Ltd
Photographer: Sean McTigue