A dramatic climax to the 2021 Can-Am Loveday 400 has seen BFGoodrich Motorsport Australia Off Road Championship (AORC) veteran Hayden Bentley and his daughter Hannah Bentley claim an unlikely victory.
In what proved to be an extremely challenging weekend for the 32 entered crews, just nine were able to finish all 10 laps, while the remaining 22 crews fell victim to the difficult course at various points.
For Bentley though, his consistency across both days of action and experience at Loveday helped him claim the 2021 BFGoodrich Motorsport Australia Off Road Cup – Central by a resounding five minutes.
Finishing the 400km race in second place behind the victorious Trophy Truck was Chris Pickert, while a further eight minutes behind were Tyson and Chris Proud – the duo rounding out the podium.
After a solid day behind the wheel during yesterday’s action, the Bentleys were on track to finish second before emerging as the winner after some late drama on the final lap of the event.
Qualifying in second place after an amicable Prologue performance, Bentley ended day one in the same position and trailing leader Wes Cowie by 39 seconds after two completed sections.
In Sunday’s first of three sections, Cowie went fastest once again, beating Bentley by 46 seconds and extending his lead to almost one and half minutes.
The leader looked to have sealed the deal on the first lap of the fifth and final section, going two minutes faster than Bentley, who seemed to have issues of his own, and extending the gap out to almost four minutes.
However, there is never any certainty when it comes off road racing and on the final lap of the 400km race, Cowie’s Pro Buggy sustained drive shaft damage and he failed to finish the section – ruling him out of contention.
Cowie’s section withdrawal handed the outright victory to Bentley, who cautiously cruised home on the final lap to win the same event he finished in second place last year, as well as picking up the Extreme 2WD class win.
Bentley wasn’t the only one to benefit from Cowie’s heartbreaking section DNF with Proud also picking up the Pro Buggy class victory in the process.
Just five minutes off the final podium place was Prolite class winner Rich Andrews, while David Adams edged out fellow Sportslite pilot Sam Bentley by 40 seconds to grab a top five finish and the class win.
With Pickert winning the Performance 2WD class, the top five drivers all came from different classes, highlighting the diversity the event offers to all classes.
Michael Shipton finished ahead of Gavin Chant to pick up seventh place – the latter successfully running in two off road events in two consecutive weekends after contesting the Black Diamond Drilling Kalgoorlie Desert Race last week.
The final driver to finish all 10 laps was the ninth placed Mark Taylor, who alongside Robbie Ward, secured the Super 1650 Buggy class victory.
Rounding out the top 10 was Cowie, beating SXS Turbo class winner Ben Gartner by up to 36 minutes after both drivers completed nine laps.
Ben’s father and prominent off road figure Greg Gartner was 12th with eight laps completed. It was a mixed weekend for the 2019 Rainbow Desert Enduro winner after he won Saturday’s Prologue and first section before failing to finish section two.
He bounced back in style on Sunday though, clocking in the second fastest time in section four and the fastest time on section five.
The national off road season has now been completed with all attention to turn to the 2022 AORC season – the calendar to be released in the coming weeks.