The 2018 BFGoodrich CAMS Australian Off Road Championship (AORC) lands in Alice Springs this weekend for the iconic Tatts Finke Desert Race where 135 car crews will tackle the famous red dust and whoops in the iconic out-and-back race.
The BFGoodrich CAMS AORC couldn’t be any tighter heading into round two, with just two points separating Loveday 4×4 Park’s Toby Whateley and eight-time Australian Off Road Champion SR Racing’s Shannon Rentsch.
Whateley, who made history at the St George 399 by becoming the first to take an outright section win in a SXS Turbo, certainly didn’t expect to be leading the AORC pointscore.
“I expected to be at the pointy end of the class but to be leading is great,” Whateley said.
“When I had the chance [at St Geroge] it gave me a lot of motivation to push harder. I’m surprised but happy to be where I am.”
Whateley is realistic about his chances at Finke, with the fast and straight track favouring the more powerful buggies and trucks.
“Just going to try and race in my class and see how I go outright,” he said.
“I need to concentrate on finishing as I haven’t finished in last two years. I think I’ll take it easy on the way down and see where I am sitting… see if I can push on the way back to Finke and get a good clean finish and see where I end up.”
Whateley will have a keen eye on fellow SXS Turbo pilot Phil Lovett, who claimed third at the St George 399 and sits third in the AORC, just 10 points behind Whateley.
“You would have to put Phil Lovett down as my biggest challenger… also Nathan Chivers,” Whateley said.
“Phil is the number one to worry about because of his knowledge of the track, he’ll be pushing me for sure.”
Whateley and Lovett will be part of a huge SXS Turbo field – 44 Polaris’ and Can-Ams will take on the Finke Desert, with another 18 of the 1200cc SXS Sports making the journey.
Racing the Jimco Aussie Special, Five-time ‘King of the Desert’ Rentsch is quietly confident about his chances at Finke this year.
“Yeah I think we’ve got a pretty good shot, as long as everything runs smoothly and the car goes well, I know we are in with a good chance,” said Rentsch.
“We had a good run up there last year but it is Finke and anything can happen so we’ll go up there and have a crack.”
Another one to watch will be five-time bike ‘King of the Desert’ Toby Price. Price will again attempt the ‘Iron Man’ Finke Double at the 2018 Tatts Finke Desert Race aiming to make history by winning both car and motorcycle categories.
Price last attempted the gruelling challenge in 2016, winning the bike leg but falling just short, finishing runner up in his first attempt in the car category.
There will be plenty of class battles at the 2018 Tatts Finke Desert Race.
Close racing in the Prolite classe at the St George 399 sees Class Champion Chris Browning leading the points, closely followed by a fast Alan Dixon and Ally Howells. Howells will make her debut at Finke this year.
The battle for Production 4WD supremacy will continue between off-road legend Geoff Pickering and relative newcomer Jodie Allen while the Extreme 2WD class is anyone’s guess. Last year’s runner up Beau Robinson will be out to go one better in the Geiser Bros Trophy Truck but there are no shortage of challengers with the likes of previous Finke winners Hayden Bentley, David Fellows and Greg Gartner all vying for the win.
The Tatts Finke Desert Race gets started with Prologue on the Saturday morning before crews take on the first 226 kilometre leg from Alice Spring to Finke on the Sunday morning. Leg two, returning to Alice Springs, kicks off on Monday morning.