Jeff McNiven is confident that he is in a better position for an outright podium finish at this weekend’s Hindmarsh Shire Rainbow Desert Enduro compared to last year.
Despite finishing first in class and fifth outright in last year’s inaugural event, McNiven’s preparation has been much easier ahead of the final round of the BF Goodrich CAMS Australian Off Road Championship.
Armed with a better car and in better physical condition, the Queenslander is now well placed to go one better than his already strong results from last year.
“Our new car is just faster, stronger and more reliable than last year’s car. It’s just better all round so we are hoping to improve on our outright position,” McNiven said.
“I was also so physically sick last year that we were actually going to pull out of the race when I arrived.
“However once I wore my multiple jackets, put the helmet on, got into the car and got out of the cold, I was somehow ok. I actually can’t believe that I came good and went so well.
“Right now I am feeling a lot better so the plan is to have a real shot at catching the guys ahead of me.”
McNiven currently sits third outright and second in the SXS turbo class trailing only eight-time Off Road champion Shannon Rentsch and class leader Toby Whateley, who has had a brilliant year thus far.
With more points available at this weekend than previous rounds, the 44-year-old remains within touching distance of both an outright and class victory, but has conceded that good fortune needs to come his way, unlike Finke and St George.
“I am actually surprised that we are going so well this year,” McNiven added.
“We have not had a great run mechanical wise so far and have had a lot bad luck with blown tyres, but somehow we have kept pursuing and now we’re in with a shot.
“Both Toby and Shannon are a fair way in front of us so realistically, one or both those guys need to have some sort of break.
“We will not catch them unless they have a problem.”
McNiven’s small glimmer of hope for problems to his title rivals does not come unwarranted though, with Rentsch failing to finish last year due to the testing conditions of the event.
Last year’s Enduro was known for the difficult course, with so much rain in the lead up to the event, however while most competitors found it tough to compete, McNiven relished them and is now hoping for same weather situation.
“I hope it is going to be wet, because for us, things go better when it slippery,” McNiven explained.
“Our vehicle is a four wheel drive and it’s light so it can handle all the slippery conditions better than all the big horse power stuff.
“Our goal is always the same, which is to press as hard as we can for as long as we can.”
Rentsch currently leads the outright standings on 728 points, Whateley in second place has 622 points while McNiven sits on 485 points, just 14 points ahead of fourth placed Josh Howells and 19 points ahead of Greg Campbell in fifth.
In the SXS turbo class, Whateley has a 129 point lead over McNiven on 730 points as just 18 points separates McNiven, Nathan Chivers and Campbell.
The Hindmarsh Shire Rainbow Desert Enduro takes place on 10-12 August, with Outright and Class Champion to be crowned at the conclusion of the event.