Making the switch from one category to another in Australian motor sport is often a difficult task, but 2018 DEWALT SXS Australian Champion Simon Evans is relishing the challenge.
The four-time CAMS Australian Rally Championship driver moved into off road a few years ago and has hasn’t looked back since the change as he looks to build on his career in the sport.
Competing in SXS for three years, Evans took the big step earlier this month to take part in the Cobb & Co Hotel St George 399 and enter his first full season in the BFGoodrich CAMS Australian Off Road Championship (AORC).
Struggling throughout the opening two sections, Evans found some good form in the final section to cross the line within the top 25 and score some valuable championship points, a milestone he was proud to achieve.
“We had a testing weekend, it just goes to show you are always learning in the sport,” Evans said.
“I was just trying to find the balance between driving flat out and getting to finish line and we broke so many things on the first few laps, it was incredible.
“However in that last section, I am so proud of my team because we worked so hard to finish those two laps. It’s really good to put it all together and put in a nice few laps.
“I was really tough but I just can’t wait to come back. I loved it, I really loved every minute of it.”
Despite competing in off road for a few years now, Evans is still trying to get used to transitioning from rally to SXS racing and now to off road endurance racing.
“There is a real big difference between driving techniques,” Evans added.
“Short course SXS racing is on motor cross tracks and you have to be quick and technical with all the big jumps so you have to be fussy when you attack your ramps.
“At St George, it’s completely different. There are so many potholes and nothing is the same. You do one lap and the track is completely different the next time you come around. It is just not easy.
“For us, the biggest challenge was looking after the car. Trying to work out how much I can attack things. If it is a short-course SXS event you attack every moment, but here if you do that, you’re going to wreck your car.
“I really enjoyed that challenge as a driver.”
St George wasn’t Evans’ first time in an AORC event, as he took part in last year’s Tatts Finke Desert Race but was unable to complete the first day of action, his debut ending on a sour note with a DNF.
While he didn’t finish the whole Cobb & Co Hotel St George 399, the completed section has given the Victorian a much needed confidence boost ahead of the next round as he aims for his first career race finish.
With so many experienced campaigners passing on their advice to help him develop into that complete driver, Evans admits he feels right at home in the AORC.
“We are getting better and better and I feel like we are the new kids on the block again. I started from scratch.” Evans explained.
“Every time we are on track, we are learning with every kilometre we do. Hopefully we continue to develop and get better so in a couple of events, we may be at the top of the time sheets.
“We have definitely managed to catch up with some of the other drivers to pick their brains, including Shannon Rentsch, Toby Whateley and Jeff McNiven. The way they share they knowledge, they are all just great blokes.
“Everyone is great in off road racing. It’s just like a big family and it feels really nice to be part of this family.”
The BFGoodrich CAMS Australian Off Road Championship moves to Northern Territory in less than 50 days for the iconic Tatts Desert Finke Race on 7-10 June