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

Weekend of Hard Knocks
Wednesday, 13 June 2012
As the saying goes, ‘winners are grinners’, and in this case, so are finishers.

In what was unquestionable the biggest weekend on the 2012 Australian Off Road Racing calendar, competitors from the length and breadth of the country, along with two international teams, fought it out through the dust at the MBL Sea Lake Mallee Rally and the Tatts Finke Desert Race.

200 plus competitors nominated for the two events with 38 completing full distance at the Tatts Finke Desert Race and 36 teams finishing the five lap race distance at the MBL Sea Lake Mallee Rally. A further 16 crews completing the four laps required for the Victorian Off Road Championship section, making 52 happy finishers at the first round of the Australian Off Road Championship.

1411b_sm There were some spectacular exists from both events and even more remarkable near misses. Beau Robinson and Ken Skinner take the award for near miss and persistence, doing a massive end for end roll over on day 1 heading to Finke, to stop trackside with a flat tyre on the return leg to Alice Springs, and resultantly claiming third outright by a mere 14 seconds. A change in navigator to Steve Hall was necessary for Monday’s return run with Skinner declared unfit to race after the roll over. The dramas didn’t finish there with Robinson seeking medical attention at race end for dehydration.

Andrew Pinto and Jol Pritchard after having a good run down to Finke, with only a flat tyre to change, went for a wild ride off the track and rolled after the Deep Well checkpoint. Jack Rhodes and Craig Mattingly were leading the field on the first leg when they became passengers in the #91 Jimco as it rolled. The young team regained composure and continued racing, only to get up close and personal with a tree.

Rollovers weren’t restricted to Finke with the Sea Lake track racking up its share of the pie. Daniel Wells and Calen Roberts had a tough introduction to off roading; Wells rolling the #218 Bunderson on his first lap around the Lake. Luke Price #116 and Safari veterans Terry and Peter Conner #869 both rolled on lap three while Matt and Rhyce Western suffered the same fate in the newly reworked #462 machine on lap four. Peter and Jake Stevenson #248 went over on lap two after the front end gave way, dug in and threw the father and son team onto its roof.

1411c_sm Back to back wins were also shattered with both the Element Racing Team and Gartner Racing failing to fulfill their ambitions of repeat podium victories. Aaron Haby’s Sea Lake defense was cut short, when he initially stopped trackside on the first lap with throttle cable issues, to find an engine fire. It is now presumed that the fire had burnt through the throttle cable. Competitors following Haby, including Brad Prout and Chris Western, stopped to render assistance and fire extinguishers.

Greg Gartner was heard to have said “when it’s not your weekend, it just not”. A fair sum up of the Gartner Racing teams attempt at a back to back King of the Desert. The team nursed the F150 Extreme 2WD to Finke for day 1 with fuel pump dramas only to break a steering rack bolt on the return trip. In a ‘MacGyver solution’ the crew borrowed a bolt that was used to mount the sway bar to fix the steering to get them mobile. However, the lack of a sway bar and rear brake failure saw the F150 again nursed across the finish line at Alice Springs and all hopes of a back to back victory gone.

1411d_sm The Warrnambool based Owen Truss Racing two car team of brothers Glenn and Matt Owen started the weekend strong with Glenn and navigator Matt Ryan topping the MBL Sea Lake Mallee Rally qualifying timesheets in the #30 Jimco and Matt Owen and Adam O’Connor holding ninth outright in the Alumicraft #130. Glenn faltered early with a flat tyre not far into the first lap, losing time and track position as the front runners went by. The #30 rejoined only to retire in the first service break after two laps, with a loud engine knock when the Jimco was fired up to head to the start line.

Matt Owen and Adam O’Connors’ weekend was more heart wrenching, when, sitting in third outright and looking at a podium finish, broke a drive shaft on the final lap.

The Peter Kittle Motor Sports Team have a great track record at the Tatts Finke Desert Race with David Fellows holding a trifecta of wins and Andrew Kittle finishing second in 2011. Unfortunately 2012 was not to be their year, with the three stable cars failing to greet the Alice Springs checkered flag. Macca Kittle and Cameron Kahl were the first to exit, losing drive on Saturday’s run to Finke.

Andrew Kittle and Andrew Kerr in the #14 Jimco were out on the leg to Alice Springs when a broken bolt at the end of the steering arm took them on a wild excursion and ended their weekend. The new addition to the team, the Jimco Trophy Truck #1 of Dave Fellows and Mark Bergamin was working its way through the field when driveline issues ended the Jimco’s debut run.

The second of the Element Off Road cars, the #56 machine of Carl Haby and Brenton Gallasch also failed to finish with an engine miss fire ending their Sea Lake campaign.

1411e_sm The Team Tayor Razorback #24 with Ryan Taylor behind the wheel, ultimately finished the MBL Sea Lake Mallee Rally in 17th outright, with Taylor sharing the ride with three navigators. Brother, Michael Taylor, started the five lap race in the navigator’s seat, but managed two laps before illness prevented him returning to the track after the hour service break. Bob Strawbridge, now out of the race with alternator failure in the #16 Southern Cross Mk VI, stepped into the Razorback navigating duties, only to himself succumbed to motion sickness, managing only one lap; the #24 returning to the pits at the completion of lap three. This time Nev Taylor, father, took up the challenge, guiding Ryan on the final two laps of the 85km Lake Tyrrell track.

New to the sport, the Hall Brothers Racing team, learnt a valuable lesson in how many spare tyres to carry, the Patrol suffering two flats on the run to Finke, leaving the crew to drive the last 80km on the front rim. An uneventful trip back to Alice Springs saw the team finish in 30th outright.

Another to limp to the overnight stop in Finke was John Hederics and John Williams. A broken steering bolt stopping the crew trackside; the ingenuity of the team coming to the fore, with an alen key replacing the offending bolt and the team making it to finke, all be it 20 minutes slower than their return run on Monday.

Off road racing legend and coming out of retirement for one last crack at the Finke track was Geoff Teagle in the Teagle Excavations Ford Longreach #555. Teagle with Mark Ferguson in the navigator’s seat made it to Finke with two minutes to spare and back to Alice Springs with just under a four minute window; the trip earning the team the bragging rights of last car home, but an awesome effort for one of the gentlemen of the sport.

With fifty plus competitors not completing the MBL Sea Lake Mallee Rally and forty odd failing at the Tatts Finke Desert Race, the list of competitors and breakages is long. Here is some of the information we've gathered.

Paul Gilbert – Gearbox
Dan Auricht – Engine
Travis Robinson – Power Steering
Ian McDonald – Gear Box Selector
Paul Walsh – Gear Box
Matt Ryan – Steering
Andrew Stoddart – Steering
Damien Penfold – Steering
Justin Anderson – Electrical
Brendan Hall – Fuel Pump
David Middlemiss – Oil line
Murray England – Front Suspension
Chris Hutton – Axle
Joe Bulmer – Sticking throttle
Garry Simpson – Clutch
Kevin Nott – Gear Box
Wally Francombe – CV Boot
Alistair McClelland – Front End
Gary Davis – Drive Shaft
Ken Holt – Blown hose
Bruce Cummings – Mechanical
Michael Collins - Engine
David Nikiforoff – Water Leak
Greg Campbell - Steering Box
Bryce Chapman – Bogged in lake

Photographers: John Lyden, Daniel Lamb, Runamuk Racing