The opening round of the BFGoodrich Championship (AORC) is closing in as crews prepare for the Cobbs and Co Hotel St George 399.
With more than 70 drivers taking part in first round of the AORC, aorc.com.au previews some of the classes in the first of three editions.
Pro-Buggy – 12 Crews
The Pro-Buggy contains the front runners of the competition and some of the big names in the sport, headed up by none other than nine-time Australian champion Shannon Rentsch.
After his breakout year in 2018, Josh Howells finished in third outright after two brilliant performances at Finke and Rainbow, but his performance at St George last year proved to be a less than perfect start.
Twelve months ago, Howells only made it as far as the first three laps and was forced to miss the second half of the event. The youngster will be looking to make amends for last year’s performance and his first target to beat will be Matt Hanson.
The event has always been difficult for Hanson. In 2017 he finished 11th in an 18-car class and in 2018 he finished sixth but was unable to make it to the end of the challenging event. Both Howells and Hanson have it all to do this round and the battle will be an entertaining one should they both make to the end.
Finishing third in Rainbow and always up the front of the field is Mark Burrows, however it will be the five-time champion’s first visit to the St George 399 and the perfect opportunity for this legend of the sport to make his mark in Queensland.
Like Burrows the remaining eight cars on the grid will be making the debuts at the course.
Pro-Lite – 7 Crews
Another class, another list of the sport’s big names, which includes a former champion and some of top-10 drivers from 2018.
Matthew Martin is the pick of the bunch and the 2017 AORC champion’s main goal this year will be to finish St George and get back the form that won him the title in 2017.
Pat Philips is another driver who would like to put last year behind him. After making the switch over from Super 1650 Buggy class co-driver duties, he was only able to finish four laps of the Queensland course. The new track changes could suit the now experienced Queenslander.
Reigning Pro-lite Champion Alan Dixon is back to defend his class title after a tight battle with Ally Howells last year. Dixon will be going into the season full of confidence after also securing the 2018 CAMS Victorian Off Road Championship.
Ally Howells is back for another year after a solid debut season saw her finish in the top 10. Now armed with a new set of wheels, she is confident in making top five outright finishing making this class one to watch.
Super 1650 – 3 Crews
Werner Zettl was the only driver to finish a race in this class last year, which ultimately handed him the class title. It was an emotional victory for Zettl who was competed in the event after the loss of his dear wife.
The New South Welshman returns in 2019 with Liam Peters as his new co-driver and will be hoping to replicate last year’s victory, which he achieved by himself.
Declan Cummins is back again and will be hoping to take out the class victory like he did in 2017. Cummins will be with a new co-driver in Karin Ann Barker and is Zettl’s biggest hurdle for another victory but will have to be careful to avoid a similar near-rollover like he did last year.
Joining the two horse race is David Ellsworth and the Queenslander enters the frame after a big switch from the SXS Turbo class. In both years of the St George 399, Ellsworth failed to make the top 15 in the class, prompting the change as he searches for a better result.