Eight-time Australian Off Road Champions Shannon and Ian Rentsch have pulled off a come-from-behind win at round one of the BFGoodrich CAMS Australian Off Road Championship (AORC) in St George, Queensland.
Rentsch headed into the third and final section of the St George 399 three minutes and 37 seconds behind South Australian young gun Toby Whateley with only three 41-kilometre laps in which to pull back the time.
The SR Racing crew were clearly on a mission, passing Whateley on the first lap and with a clear track in front, wasted no time reeling in the time on Whateley’s Loveday 4×4 Park Can-Am Maverick.
With only seconds between the pair on overall time, a thrilling finish was in the making as Rentsch crossed the line and the countdown began for Whateley. It never eventuated however, with Whateley radioing his crew to say he had a reserve fuel pump issue and was limping to the chequered flag.
In the end Rentsch took the win by three minutes and 14 seconds, ahead of Whateley in second and Phil Lovett and Paul Guenthen in third, also in a Can-Am Maverick.
Rentsch was pretty pleased with his weekend’s work.
“It was a testing weekend, the conditions were pretty tough in the dust and a pretty challenging weekend. But it’s a good start to the championship for us,” Rentsch said.
“We got off to a pretty bad start yesterday in some dust with some lapped cars and lost a lot of time.
“Today we made up a bit of time in the first section and in the last section we caught up to Toby and got by him and we had a few clean laps. I really enjoyed the last three laps.”
Rentsch now looks towards round two of the BFGoodrich CAMS AORC at the Tatts Finke Desert Race, where he and father Ian will defend their ‘King of the Desert’ title.
“Best thing about it is the car is in one piece. I was a bit worried about hitting a tree or something silly this weekend, so it’s good it’s in one piece and we haven’t made too much work for ourselves getting to Finke.”
Understandably, Whateley was gutted to suffer issues so late in the race.
“One of our pumps gave way and we had a bit of a flat tyre, it wasn’t completely flat so that’s a good thing I suppose,” he said.
The young South Australian admitted to suffering from nerves in what was probably the biggest race of his short career.
“I was shaking, nervous the whole way around knowing that Shannon was coming and then when I got that flat tyre knowing that we had to make time it was gut wrenching.
“But we got second place and second place to an eight-time champion is not a bad thing I suppose.”
It was an impressive showing by the SXS Turbo class on the tight and twisty St George course – claiming seven of the top ten outright positions.
The only other Pro Buggy inside the top ten was Team Taylor’s Tatum AK47 piloted by Ryan Taylor with Neville Taylor riding shotgun.
Luke Shadbolt and Ryan Hensen rounded out the top five in another Can-Am.
A number of drivers succumbed to the tricky St George course throughout the day.
Chris Mingay tore the front suspension out of his Raptor tt Trophy Truck after meeting with a tree and SMU Racing’s Matt Hanson retired with drive line issues after making a comeback from 11th to fourth.
Peter Carr, who was sitting in third at the beginning of the days racing, broke a tailshaft only five kilometres into today’s first section and Howells Motorsport’s John Howells broke a steering rack off the start line.
In class results, Geoff Pickering and Dylan Watson added yet another trophy to the cabinet with a win in Production 4WD and CnC Racing’s Chris Browning and Chris Clarke took out the Prolite class after leader Alan Dixon had a rollover at the Baker’s Dozen.
Zachary Marsh and James Clarke took out the competitive SXS Sport class and Hans Werner Zettl and claimed the honours in Super 1650.
The BFGoodrich CAMS Australian Off Road Championship now heads to the iconic Tatts Finke Desert Race in Alice Springs on the 8-11 June.