2017 CAMS Australian Off Road Championship
St George - Apr 29-30    |    Finke - June 9-11    |    Rainbow - August 4-6                  

2017 ARB Australian Off Road Racing Series
Griffith - March 17-19     |     Mildura - April 21-23     |     Sea Lake - June 9-11     |     Waikerie - July 21-23     |     Goondiwindi - Aug 18-20     |     Millicent - Sept 22-23

The Sweet Evolution of Howells Motorsport
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Sunday, 30 July 2017
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Off road racing has been ingrained into the Howells family for over 25 years. From father and team manager Glenn campaigning an original Rivmasta, to the current two car set up featuring a VQ35 powered Southern Cross driven by daughter Ally and a twin turbo Jimco Aussie Special steered by son Josh; both have come a long way since completing their racing apprenticeships at a challenging Colo Park.

After a 17-year hiatus from the sport, Howells Motorsport returned to the off road racing scene in 2010, bringing the restored Rivmasta out of retirement and into daylight. The Rivmasta had been stripped down and rebuilt, including a brand new set of Fox Shocks, which cost more than the car itself.

17 year old Ally and 16 year old Josh, both very accomplished motorbike riders, were not just out for their debut season to make up the numbers; double entering the Sportsman machine at all Colo Park club rounds with success immediate.

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Colo Park was the perfect environment for developing their driving skills, patience and knowledge of a racecar. The tight, rough, sand based track has always been a test for the most experienced competitor, therefore acknowledged as a key step in Ally and Josh learning their profession.

Coming off a successful debut in February 2010 at the SORRA club round, the team loaded the truck with smiles and enthusiasm and headed for their first crack at the NSW Off Road Championship, the Crookwell Gravel Pit Challenge. Josh crossed in 9th and Ally, not to be outdone, rounded out the top 10, The perfect entrance into the NSW scene boosted confidence and resulted in a large accumulation of club points throughout the year.

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Milbrodale was next on the agenda where, Ally and Josh alternating the heats, against all odds finished an incredible 11th outright from 69 starters. When the lights went green at the final round of the NSW championship at their home Colo circuit, titles were on the line. Josh secured 7th place to claim the Junior Club Champion whilst Ally capped off a dream introduction by finishing 9th and in doing so, held on to become SORRA’S first female and youngest driver champion. A proud father and head navigator Glenn took home the SORRA club championship award.

Crookwell brought more success for Josh and Ally as they ramped up their 2011 campaigns with 3rd and 5th outright respectively. Milbrodale and Colo were not so kind for the NSW rounds although Josh managed to accrue enough points to lift his first club championship, narrowly holding off Ally who was fighting to defend her crown. Making the feats even greater was the fact that at all events they were double entering the Rivmasta; doing twice the mileage as every other car in the field. From completing repairs, upgrades and prep work in the shed together to acquiring how to drive the car to its limits, albeit ensuring the car made it back to the finish line for the other sibling to jump in to race, Ally and Josh sure had learned their race craft.

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A V8 Hilux ute was brought into the teams stable for Ally to steer in the Production 2WD class for the next two seasons which allowed for Josh to throw all his weight behind the hotted up 1300cc Sportsman buggy.

At the 2012 Colo Challenge he proved quick times can be achieved without huge horsepower as he competed fiercely with the Pro buggies for a gallant fourth.

Ally reverted back to the Rivmasta in 2014 as Josh took some time away from the sport to work on an exciting new addition to the team, a Southern Cross Prolite featuring a Nissan VQ35 power plant. In a consistent season she was rewarded with a third in class for the NSW Sportsman’s Championship thanks to a seventh outright at Colo Park, class win at Dondingalong, a third consecutive class victory at Crookwell and a hard earned second in her first outing at Warialda.

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Taking the next step to national level events was the target for 2015. Confronting her first 400km race, Ally juggled nerves, dust and an 80 strong ARB Griffith 400 field in the ARB Series opener. Ability shone brightly as Ally came home in 33rd outright and first in class.

Crookwell was next for the team where they would introduce Josh’s Prolite machine. In extremely wet and cold conditions, Josh overcame minor mechanical issues to cross in fifth. Ally remained perfect in class with another victory and ninth outright. Not going to script, Howells Motorsport would not complete another event in the calendar year allowing them to regroup and turn their attention to 2016.

A warm February weekend at Colo Park was the ideal setting for Josh to reignite his charge, a second outright and a Prolite class win the perfect response. Another crack at the ARB Griffith 400 in March would be Josh’s first; a ninth place finish was his reward, a flawless curtain raiser for the next edition.

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Ally continued her love affair for the red dust of Stackpoole, 22nd outright and class win to add to the collection. Expectations were continuing to grow at Howells headquarters and with two cars prepared impeccably, it was up to both drivers to tame their next challenge, the Milbrodale Mountain. Josh got off to a flying start, prologuing in third place but unfortunately mechanical gremlins reap havoc again; back to the drawing board for the #115. Ally continued in her merry ways as she circulated her way through the field to a respectable 16th outright and sportsman buggy win – showing the younger brother how it was done. Nabiac was the final stop for 2016 where Ally handled the extremely tough sandy conditions the best in her class taking home the silverware, whilst Josh who qualified second outright was left stranded trackside waiting for a tow back to the shed in preparation for the team’s offseason transition.

Heading to Griffith in March this year, a Jimco Aussie special twin turbo and a Southern Cross Prolite in tow; Josh and Ally were two nervous bodies furthering their step to the next level. Lining up against the likes of Ryan, Brown, Owen, Burrows, Robinson and co was something Josh had been dreaming about since working his way through the ranks in the old Rivmasta and after prologuing eighth outright at Round 1 of the ARB Australian Off Road Racing Series, it very quickly became reality.

Getting out into the red dust of Stackpoole amongst Australia’s best was Josh’s largest test to date; a learning curve like no other as he later explained that holding a Jimco flat across straights at over 200km as being quiet daunting. Josh, cruising on adrenaline, saved his fastest lap for last, claiming a sensational fourth outright, only seconds from a podium finish.

Ally herself was flawless all weekend cutting her prologue position in half by race end to finish 22nd, a great result considering it was her first attack at a race in the Prolite class.

The team took positives from their experience at Mildura, Josh prologued sixth in a field which possessed arguably two of Australia’s greatest competitors Shannon Rentsch and Mark Burrows, and like Josh, Ally started the race well until both succumbing to issues.

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Focus immediately turned to the Milbrodale Mountain Classic, a centrepiece of the NSW Calendar. As the sunset over the mountain on a cold winters Friday evening with campfires roaring amongst the crowds – there was a mixture of nerves, excitement and confidence at Howells Motorsport.

Josh got off to the perfect start taking pole for the race start, Ally was not far behind in 10th; a great result for the team. Driving to the track conditions was going to be Josh’s greatest test as the weekend progressed, holding a slight lead into the long course laps after mastering the frantic short course heat, pressure was on. Handling the challenge like he had done before, Josh cruised to a comfortable win; his first outright victory at an off road race was a huge relief for the entire team.

Entering the Jimco Aussie Special with the aim of winning the weekend was achieved; and this was made even sweeter as Josh set the fastest lap on the long course to take home the Man of the Mountain award. As celebrations began with father Glenn and crew, they continued their applause for Ally who crossed for an inspired display of clean consistent driving in only her third outing in the Prolite Southern Cross, sixth outright and second in class, an amazing feat.

Both thanked their team, especially father Glenn for all his work over the years, his dedication, commitment and support got them to their most successful weekend to date at Milbrodale. An emotional Glenn was ecstatic, in a post-race interview with Steve Maher he mentioned; “I couldn’t be any prouder, it’s been a long time coming, but they have progressed through the ranks and here we are today, wow. Two cars home in the top six is an amazing result”.

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The 9th of July 2017 was the day that everyone at Howells Motorsport had been waiting for. Who would have thought Ally and Josh, first sighted at a Colo Park learn to drive day, would become a formidable team in the New South Wales and National off road circuits, and they are only just starting.

Next stop for the team will be the Albins ARB Goondiwindi 400 in mid August, and with a cracker field of 100 teams entered, it is going to be another huge test for Howells Motorsport, with Josh looking to build on his recent success.

All going well at Goondiwindi, the team plan to head to Warialda for Ally’s favourite event, the Warialda 200, which will be Josh’s first attempt at the iconic track.

Howells Motorsport is the perfect example of a family that races together, stays together – there is no stopping them now!

Source: Toby Cooper
Photographer: Gordon Robb