Four months after the thrilling conclusion to the 2022 season in Kalgoorlie, the 2023 Polaris Motorsport Australia Off Road Championship (AORC) kicks off this weekend with the Markwell Group Gold City 450.
New to the AORC, a huge entry list of 56 crews will contest the inaugural national event in Charters Towers, Queensland, with only a handful in the bumper field having been to the North Queensland Off Road Racing Association’s unique course.
Over the weekend, crews will face nine laps of the 50-kilometre course, which is made up of a variety of terrain.
With five rounds making the 2023 season, this weekend’s opening event features a star-studded line up, full of high-profile crews looking to start their seasons on a high.
Headlining the entry list will be defending champions Ryan Taylor and Kye Floyd, who enjoyed a remarkable season to secure a title that had been a long time in the making.
“We are pretty keen to get back behind the wheel in Charters Towers and begin our title defence,” Taylor said.
“As for us, we plan to throw everything at it because back-to-back titles would be amazing, and it would prove that last year wasn’t a fluke.
“I think it will have benefits and being the first round, we want to get into the groove of things and have a good start to our title defence.”
The Queenslanders headline an 18-car Pro Buggy class, with a handful of crews likely to be challenging them for silverware not just this weekend, but across the year.
Those same crews are also in search of a maiden title of their own.
From Garry Turnbull and Jake Swinglehurst, who were protagonists in last year’s entertaining title bout, through to the returning Josh Howells and Travis Robinson – both of whom are serious steerers with plenty of motivation behind them. There are many intriguing narratives deserving time in the spotlight.
For Howells, Charters Towers offers a great chance to return to the championship on a high.
“I am actually really looking forward to heading up to Charters Towers because it’s been quite a while since I was able to race and I think an event like this is perfect for my return,” Howells explained.
“It’s an event that not many have done, which makes it a level playing field and I like that aspect.
“The organising club has been doing a lot of work to get the track ready and the course looks like it’s tight between trees, which I love.”
Boasting the largest field in the entry-list are the 22-crew SXS Pro class, led by reigning champion James Cook. While fellow contenders Greg Campbell, Glenn Brinkman and Glen Ackroyd will surely act as Cook’s biggest challengers.
There are plenty of other notable names heading to the Gold City, including Ally Howells, Andrew Mowles, Joshua Wiedman, Simon Evans, Phil Lovett, Geoff Pickering and Bradley Geraghty.
With the event seeing its highest ever field, compared to its previous status as a state round, North Queensland Off Road Racing Association secretary Don Young was thrilled with the entry list.
“We are absolutely over the moon with the amount of crews who have entered the event, and we’re excited to put on a good show for all those who will be making the journey,” Young said.
“The club has been working extremely hard in hot, steamy conditions to get this complex up to a level beyond expectation, as this is the biggest field we’ve had here. We’re confident crews will enjoy the event.”
Spread over three sections, the competition will commence with Prologue on Saturday morning at 8:15am AEST, before the round’s first section begins at 11:30am.
Sunday’s action will see Section Two begin at 7:30am, and the third at 1:30pm AEST.
Before the official competition gets underway though, all crews and their vehicles will be on display for locals at the town’s Mitre 10 on Friday from 2:00pm.
Fans can keep up to date with the event through the AORC’s live blog and social media channels – including on 7plus, which was recently announced as the returning broadcast partner of the championship.
The 2023 Polaris Motorsport Australia Off Road Championship season begins with the Markwell Group Gold City 450 in Charters Towers, Queensland, on 10–12 March.