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ARB Griffith 400... Top 10 Wrap Up
Monday, 11 May 2015
Moving from their traditional July date to March proved to be popular decision for the Griffith Off Road Club. With the ARB Griffith 400 now the first rounds of the New South Wales Off Road Championship and ARB Off Road Racing Series, along with being the first ‘major’ event on the 2015 calendar, the competitor list was destined to attract some of the best and brightest off road racing talent around, and come the close of entries, it didn’t disappoint.

Teams travelled from near and far to make up the 84 contenders, ready to take on the 100km Stackpoole loop track for four times across the weekend. The Stackpoole property is steeped in off road racing history with the name Stackpoole originating after Keith Poole and Bernie Stack took outright honours at the first off road event held at the property in the 70’s.

2909b_sm Moving from mid-July to mid-March, and with little rain in the lead up to the event, meant a dry dusty track opposed to the usual damp heavy July track, however, with a start interval set at one-at-a-time at one-minute intervals in place, and the introduction of a parc ferme before the restart of lap four, dust for most competitors proved not to be an issue.

That said, a massive dust storm ripped through the property on Saturday night as unsuspecting campers awoke to the disconcerting flapping of tents and rocking of transporters. No damage was sustained but a thick film of dust covered all and sundry.

2909i_sm After 400 kilometres of Stackpoole off road racing, Jack Rhodes and David Pullino secured the outright win, pulling off back to back ARB Griffith 400 titles. Rhodes and Pullino took full advantage of their lead after Saturday’s withdrawal of the fastest qualifier and previous event winner Glenn Owen with head gasket dramas.

The Fuchs Rhodes Racing Jimco #91 drove from strength to strength and secured the outright win finishing the event with a lead of 5m37seconds to second placed John Towers and Bruce Young #27. Rhodes' weekend was not without his own dramas, suffering from turbo failure at the completion of the prologue, a quick replacement and they were able to front the start line for section one and ultimately claim the outright win.

2909c_sm The Honda powered JT Lustrum Pro buggy #27 clocked in consistently fast laps times across the four laps; Towers and Young unable to rein in a charging Rhodes to ultimately finish second outright, moving up one position from their overnight third when the second placed Stackpoole property owner Andy Ryan had alternator issues on his first lap on Sunday morning.

Ryan and navigator Dave Smith finished Saturday’s one lap in second outright, only 30seconds behind Rhodes; Ryan sporting a stock Chev V8 engine after destroying his race engine in the week prior to the event on the dyno. Unfortunately for the Ryan Smith combination, they suffered alternator failure 5km from the finish of lap one on Sunday, but were able to limp across the line. However, even though they clocked in fast lap times for the last two laps, they were unable to recover the 8 minutes lost from lap one, ultimately being relegated to sixth outright and fifth in class for their weekend of racing.

2909d_sm The fight for the final place on the podium went down to the wire, with Greg Gartner and Jamie Jennings #410 edging out Mark Burrows and Colin Hodge #21 by just 1.3 seconds. Gartner putting in extremely consistent lap times, with only a 4.37second deviation in his time across the four laps.

Gartner’s day was not without its dramas; after greeting the checkered flag and in the process of being lined up for the podium display, a small fire started under the Ford F150 #410 when a hot oil leak ignited. Quick action from the crew, other competitors and officials ensured minimal damage to the #410 machine. Gartner, upon collection of his third placed outright trophies, which included attractive embroidered ARB event jackets and a new fire extinguisher, thought it was a most appropriate award for their team; resulting in a large cheer from the presentation crowd.

2909e_sm Fast consistent lap times is the key to finishing at the top end of the time sheets. Mark Burrows and Colin Hodge #21 just missed out on third place, slotting into fourth by just 1.3 seconds, however, recording a standard deviation of 24.3 seconds across their four laps, making them the fourth most consistent team for the event.

Aaron and Liz Haby #57 were a further 3m27seconds behind Burrows to round out the top five outright finishers at the 2015 ARB Griffith 400; a slow last lap for the husband and wife team, 3minutes off the pace of their preceding three laps, could have moved them within striking distance of Burrows.

2909f_sm With Andy Ryan and Dave Smith #50 sitting in sixth, as mentioned above, Brad Chasemore drove his single seat Jimco #10 into seventh, just 50seconds off the outright time of Ryan. Chasemore, who scored a standard deviation of 24.03seconds over the four laps, was the third most consistent driver, however was the first team to have nominated for, and hence awarded, the Racer Imports Most Consistent Contingency award.

Being late into Park Ferme for Sunday’s lap three after contending with clutch master cylinder dramas during the service break cost Gerald Reid and Aaron Saliba #39 4m25s, moving them from a potential fifth outright to eighth. Reid was clocking in extremely consistent lap times, recording a standard deviation over the four laps of just 12.2seconds.

Carl Haby and Wayne Tabe slotted into ninth outright in the second Element Off Road Prodigy #56; Haby losing time on lap three, moving him further down the field than expected.

Rounding out the top ten and the first ProLite to cross the line was Sea Lakes Cam McClelland and Kane Loutitt; McClelland regrouping after a minor on track incident with a car limping to the pits which resulted in bent steering components. The team fixing the offending parts in the service break, ready to start their next lap.

2909g_sm The ARB Griffith 400 saw new faces and their machines and the return to the sport of Australian Off Road Champion Craig Martin. Martin, who retired from competitive racing in the late 1980’s, showed that he hasn’t lost the passion, talent or ability that won him four Australian Off Road Championship titles, finishing his return event in 13th outright in a high class field.

Mike Gaffney, who navigated for Martin back in the day, was the nominated navigator, but following long course reconnaissance in the ex Matt Coleman Alpha, Gaffney withdrew not wanting to further aggravate a previous injury. Tyler Owen, who was sharing the driving duties of the #715 Isuzu Mux with Grandfather Reg Owen, stepped up and navigated for Martin on Saturday for the prologue and lap one. Mat Ryan took over the navigating duties for Sunday’s first two laps after the early retirement of his team with head gasket failure. Craig’s son Dale, hopped in for the final lap on Sunday after his vehicle retired from the event; making for a very unique father and son combination.

2909h_sm Saturday night’s communal dinner in the Stackpoole Starlight Dining Shed was a roaring success. Close on 200 diners caught up on the days racing while tucking into a delicious roast dinner.

Matt Ryan, Stackpoole property owner and representative of the Griffith Off Road Club, thanked all their sponsors, in particular ARB for their support and the local sponsors who helped out with the running of the event. “We’ve got a great group of people in the club, and usually have a good turnout at working bees. It certainly makes it easier to share the load”.

The ARB Off Road Racing Series now heads to Sea Lake in the Victorian Mallee in June for the MBL Sea Lake Mallee Rally ARB 350.

Photographer: Andrew Stott


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