A 62-strong field featuring some of Australia’s best off road teams will converge on the rural town of St George this weekend for the first round of the 2018 BFGoodrich CAMS Australian Off Road Championship.
The St George 399 kicks off on Friday in south-west Queensland, with man, woman and machine ready to tackle over 450 kilometres of dust, whoops and flat out racing.
Current Australian Off Road Champion driver Matthew Martin is keen to start his title defence in his RaceCo USA LaTer Engineering prolite buggy, fondly known as ‘The Sherman Tank’.
Teaming up with his daughter Kerri in the navigator’s seat, Martin sees 2018 as a chance for a new approach.
“We can just go fast now,” Martin said.
“We don’t have to chase points, we’ve just got to go as fast as we can and see how we go.”
Meanwhile, Australian Off Road Champion navigator Chris Clarke is again teaming up with 2017 runner-up driver Chris Browning in their Alumni Craft prolite, with the pair looking forward to getting their 2018 championship campaign underway.
“This year we have a good car, a good package and other Chris [Browning] is a great driver so we are really looking forward to the season,” Clarke said.
“Both Chris and I didn’t mind the track at all last year. It was quite fast in places, but with the track being longer, it will definitely be better.”
For the first time, eight-time Australian Off Road Champions Shannon and Ian Rentsch will make the trip to St George, missing last year’s event to attend 2016 champion Jack Rhodes’ wedding.
Shannon Rentsch is looking forward to Friday’s reconnaissance to get his first taste of the 50-kilometre course.
“It looks like a bit of a tighter track, a lot of trees, but this year it looks like they have opened it up, the tracks a bit longer now so hopefully there are a few more faster places… but it looks like a challenging track,” Rentsch said.
Rentsch is not overly concerned about being a debutant at the 399.
“Definitely probably a bit of an advantage if you have done the event before but I guess there are a few guys like Matt Hanson and some others that haven’t done it either so it’s probably not too much of a disadvantage.”
Class champions will also be out in force as they look to grab an early advantage in their 2018 campaigns.
Off-road stalwart Geoff Pickering is chasing an amazing 13th class title in Production 4WD in 2018 while husband and wife team Paul and Michelle Malt will be hoping to head the Extreme 4WD class.
And in the popular SXS Turbo class, current champion Greg Campbell will be hoping to get the jump on the 23-strong field of Can-ams and Polaris’.
Scrutineering will take place in St George on Friday afternoon with prologue on Saturday morning, followed by three-laps of the purpose-built 50 kilometre course on Saturday afternoon. Section two kicks off on Sunday with a gruelling six-lap stint.