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

John Smith Secures ARB Class 4 Podium
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Monday, 13 November 2017
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Source: Toby Cooper

After many seasons competing in local events and six Finkes under their belts, South Australian based Smith Racing, campaigning their #445 JS MK1 Trophy Truck, steered by John Smith alongside navigator Grant Manion, have completed their maiden ARB Australian Off Road Racing Series second in Class 4.

Consistent, passionate and well respected competitors within the off road fraternity, Smith who made his off road debut in 1998 and good friend Manion entered 2017 ready for an all out assault on the ARB Australian Off Road Racing Series. Looking to test themselves against a band of Australia’s greatest crews, on some of the toughest terrain, Smith Racing set off in mid March for Round 1, the ARB Stackpoole 400. With their home built 2015 JS MK1 TT in tow featuring a Nissan RB30 Turbo, 4 speed Patrol fully manualised auto transmission and Fox Shocks, Smith had no expectations only a priority to enjoy some hard, clean racing amid new scenery.

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As competitors steadily rolled into Stackpoole for the ARB opener, Smith and his crew taking on the new season with a relaxed mindset sat back and reflected with a grin ear to ear on the challenges the longer tracks, extreme conditions and a relatively new truck set up could create. Saturday’s run did not go to plan, a flat tyre diminishing any chance of a qualifying time. Smith and Manion #445 woke to beautiful warm conditions race day in preparation for seven gruelling 60km laps. After experiencing mechanical issues on lap one and four, Smith succumbed to front suspension dramas on lap six just as he was finding his groove. In flat, dusty, farmland conditions Smith was rewarded for his determined approach to Round 1 locking away a class 4 win – a strong result alongside some of Australia’s finest trophy trucks.

Next up was the ARB Sunraysia 400 run through the heartland of a soaked Keera Station on the outskirts of Mildura. The weekend started nicely for the team, slotting home fourth in class for prologue. Sunday’s enduro course was changed from four 100km laps to six laps of 65km due to the wet conditions. After positioning himself in the top five Class 4 trucks on track an incorrect snout on the torque converter caused it to overheat, ending their stay in outback Victoria on lap three.

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Round 3 of the ARB bandwagon converged on the Victorian Mallee township of Sea Lake over the Queen’s birthday June long weekend where crews were greeted with perfect weather and track conditions. Having raced Sea Lake before, Smith and Manion knew too well the importance of securing a solid prologue result and they did not disappoint clocking in the third fastest time in a field of ten Class 4s. Electrical issues from the onset proved costly for Smith on race day as he endeavoured to complete the four 100km laps.

After losing considerable amounts of time on each lap, the #445 was unable to complete full distance – however fourth in class a handy result considering the alternator cooked the battery while charging 19 volts!

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At the mid season point, Smith had found himself leading the ARB Australian Off Road Racing Series Class 4 battle, and with two intrastate rounds and one trek to Queensland remaining, it was game on!

Waikerie was another huge test for the truck and crew. Fresh from prologuing in eighth and with a dust free Sunday ahead of them at a track, they felt rather comfortable; confidence levels were high. Following three consistent laps to open proceedings Smith and Manion were just outside a podium finish as they headed out for their final 80km. Smith crossed for their second finish of 2017 in fifth position, however at a slower pace than expected, a blown turbo the diagnosis.

A maiden trip to the Queensland border town of Goondiwindi to face off with the brutally renowned melon holes was the next test for Smith Racing, who had remained in the series lead. Unfortunately, there stay was short lived. The engine died after the ghost of past turbo wreaked havoc on the oil pump early on lap one. As the 2017 series reached its climax, the title race with Peter Sibson wouldn’t be decided until the closing laps of a demanding Teagle Excavations ARB Pines Enduro.

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On return to their home state with a fresh engine installed and a full year of ARB experience behind them, Millicent would be the perfect location to close out 2017. Prologuing sixth in a strong Class 4 field, Smith would consolidate this position over the short course action and opening laps on Sunday as the battle intensified with Sibson for the #401 plate. After leading Sibson on time into lap three, Smith and Manion’s weekend ended abruptly, the replaced oil pump from Goondiwindi did not withstand the rutted Pines landscape.

An enjoyable season all-round for Smith Racing who were delighted with their first crack at a full ARB Australian Off Road Racing Series, second place in the Class 4 battle an added bonus. Next season will see Smith and Manion attack the ARB Australian Off Road Racing Championship more aggressively after the learning curve of 2017, though the truck is currently on the market with a price available on application.

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A full engine rebuild is in process, suspension upgrades, increased fuel capacity, transmission and engine cooling improvements all tasked to a frantic off season. Whist the JS MK1 is getting some love; the build of a MK2 truck has already commenced and will continue with a debut possible in 2018.

Smith and Manion’s enjoyment, passion, and drive for betterment in off road is impossible without the generosity of the event volunteers, land owners, race sponsors and fellow competitors along with the teams sponsors, including Gawler Body Works, Platinum Ag, Adam Allan for the engine and Gawler Auto Transmission for their ongoing support.

Also big thanks to navigator Grant Manion, for not only putting in on race days but for all the late nights spinning the spanners – without all of the above there is no racing!