After three false starts to the Polaris Motorsport Australia Off Road Championship (AORC), Geoff Pickering will finally be making his first appearance for the 2023 season later this month.
One of more than 50 crews entered in the Loveday 400, Pickering will finally get the chance to debut his new Ford Raptor after the veteran confirmed his place for the South Australian event.
It won’t be the first time Pickering has been hopeful of getting his new car on the road though.
Pickering has been entered in all three AORC rounds of this season already, but the car not being complete in time for March’s Markwell Group Gold City 450 and mechanical issues in the lead up to May’s Wentworth Shire Pooncarie Desert Dash saw him pull out at the 11th hour.
Knee surgery then saw him miss the Tatts Finke Desert Race, however, despite these being forced to withdraw on these three occasions, Pickering was confident he will be in attendance.
“It’s been a very frustrating start to the year and it hasn’t been our intention to miss each round, but I think this month is the first genuine chance we will have to race,” Pickering said.
“The car just wasn’t ready for Charters Towers and Pooncarie and there have been a few technicalities to get the car right and comfortably in race spec, which we are confident we have overcome.
“So, with that said, we are definitely going to Loveday – short of something huge preventing us from making there.
“I am really excited to be going to Loveday as it’s a great event, so I am looking forward to getting back out there and finally racing again.”
A 14-time national champion of the Production 4WD class, Pickering is no stranger to success.
However, with just two rounds left in the season and Adam Jiear currently enjoying a comfortable lead, Pickering has low expectations of whether he and navigator Dylan Watson will add another title.
And with most of those class titles behind the wheel of his trusty Mitsubishi Pajero, Pickering was just looking forward to finally getting to unleash his Raptor.
“I have never driven the car to be honest,” Pickering added.
“I had a brief drive of the vehicle at Charters Towers for some test sessions, but this will be my first drive of the vehicle in race conditions, so I won’t be going out there to set any records.
“I am a great believer that you can’t truly test a vehicle until a race, so this event is key for Dylan and I to familiarise ourselves with the car, as it has a different technique to the Pajero.
“I truly believe it takes three or four races to get a car to full race spec and to the point of operating it at a level you want it to be, so our motivation will be to run it as best as we can and to iron out any technical faults that may occur.
“Of course, to win a class title isn’t a driving factor as we are quite far behind, but should we be reasonably successful in Loveday, then we will definitely look at challenging in Kalgoorlie.”
The Loveday 400 takes place at the Loveday 4×4 Adventure Park on 28-30 July.