Back to basics for Hanson in AORC return

After sitting out of the 2023 BFGoodrich Motorsport Australia Off Road Championship (AORC), Matt Hanson is hopeful his one-year break will have restored the passion and confidence.

The 2012 AORC champion had a run of bad luck during the first half of 2022 season, with his podium at the Wentworth Shire Pooncarie Desert Race the only positive note.

Either side of that podium were frustrating DNFs at St George and the Tatts Finke Desert Race, which led Hanson to pull out of the rest of the season and look at starting from scratch.

Now, having entered both this year’s season opener and Finke in June, the Victorian believed the car needed a hard reset and was hopeful the new changes will have a positive effect.

“The timing to return to the AORC at Pooncarie felt right and I think we’re in a much better place than we were in the back half of 2022,” Hanson said.

“That year was pretty difficult from a results perspective and then work and family life got full on, but the passion never left and our intention to come back was always there.

Photo: Terry Hill Photography

“We just needed a hard reset, and to give the car a complete birthday. To be honest, even though we had the podium in Pooncarie, we never felt good because our turbo valve was letting us down.

“We looked at all the other things that were causing us problems and have been hard at work to get the car to a better place. That includes  a new rewire, on new hubs, brakes, tyres and a new manifold – the car feels like it’s brand new.

“To give yourself the best chance at an off road event, you have to have working parts, and some of the parts we had were past their best and were letting us down. It’s always the cheap parts that cost you.

“I was born into the AORC and have always loved it, but we stopped having fun, but in the last 12 months, a lot of work is going into the car, and we think it’s going to be a good package.”

Having always been a good steerer, Hanson and regular navigator Nigel Pendlebury, are just one crew part of the extremely strong field that is building for the AORC season opener.

And the fact that more than a dozen crews would be considered championship title contenders has motivated Hanson for his return, although the Victorian is keeping a lid on his expectations for a result.

Photo: Gears and Wheels Photography

“For me, there is zero expectation about where I will end up, but I think once the helmet goes on, it will be a different story,” Hanson explained.

“Without a doubt, the entry list is getting me excited and there are about 10 drivers within the pro buggy class alone who can win, which is fantastic for the championship.

“I am not going to put pressure on myself as I’m focused on getting back into the groove – but if I can get a good result against a field that genuinely has some of the best drivers in the country, then I’d have to be happy.

“The plan is just to build blocks for the week. Focus on one segment at a time. First prologue, then section, and if we are there abouts ahead of the Sunday, anything can happen. Then we do the same at Finke, and if all is going well, we will consider the rest of the season.

“All in all, it’s all about getting back to basics. The car is ready, everything is prepared, and I am just excited to get back into something I was born to do”

The Wentworth Shire Pooncarie Desert Dash takes place in Pooncarie on 19-21 April.