Greg Gartner and Jamie Jennings have started the Hindmarsh Shire Rainbow Desert Enduro in style, finishing the opening day with a healthy lead at almost one minute.
Sitting in second place are Shane Elphinstone and Luke Candy, while the returning Aaron James made up the top three a further 10 seconds behind the West Australians.
More than 60 crews featured in today’s prologue session and first section, however Gartner and Jennings proved too strong across the day, winning Prologue and the Top 10 shootout before steering their trophy truck to the section one win.
In what was a day of high attrition, with 16 cars unable to finish both laps, Gartner had a few issues of his own, but was able to navigate his way through the challenging 75km course.
“We’re really happy it hasn’t played up so that’s a big bonus for us,” Gartner said.
“The car is good, but I think the mud is playing havoc on the back panels, so we probably won’t run those tomorrow just because of all the mud.
“We sort of backed it off in the second lap because we’ve got another five laps tomorrow.
“We’ll probably give it a fair crack tomorrow, but just have to see how these ruts go.
“We really need to just try to get to the finish. It’s a fine line because Shane’s caught up a little bit on the last lap. We’ve still a minute up, but we just have to see what tomorrow brings.”
While Gartner came away holding a solid one-minute lead, a similar amount of time separated the rest of the top five with the fourth placed Jake and Kate Swinglehurst 25 seconds off James.
A further 36 seconds behind Swinglehurst was his BFGoodrich Motorsport Australia Off Road Championship (AORC) title rivals in Ryan Taylor and Kye Floyd – the duo rounding out the top five.
Three minutes behind Taylor was Craig Martin, the pro buggy pilot comfortably in sixth as Prolite leaders Mel and Liam Brandle finished the section two minutes slower. Behind them were class rivals Matt Burrows and Jay Mitchell with the Victorians just half a second behind after two laps.
Making up the rest of the top ten was Brent Smoothy and Reese Burgess in ninth and fellow Trophy Truck pilot Damien Nicol and Cameron Percy.
Taking out top honours for the day in the KINCROME SXS Motorsport Australia Championship was Lachlan Bailey and Nathen Sracek.
Bailey, who was victorious at the Coomealla Memorial Club and Bendigo Bank Pooncarie Desert Dash, enjoyed a stellar first section, beating James Cook and Mitch Aucote by more than two minutes.
“I’m pretty happy with that, considering we just went out there and did our thing and just tried to finish,” Bailey added.
“We know it’s a long race, so just to be here at the end will be a good achievement.
“It’s so rough. I have had a few bumps out there that really jarred my back, so I’m trying not to hit them too hard and break the car because at this stage I am just trying to finish.”
Other class leaders at the end of the section include the 11th placed Steven Graham who leads the Sportslite, Chris Pickert and Geoff Pickert in Performance 2WD, Geoff Pickering and Dylan Watson in Production 4WD and Eden Evans and Ryan Preston in SXS Sport.
The action resumes tomorrow from 8:30am AEST with the remaining five laps to take place over the course of the day.