The 2021 BFGoodrich Motorsport Australia Off Road Championship is officially underway and New South Welshman Josh Howells enjoyed the perfect start to the season.
With the more than 85 cars taking part in the first heat of the Cobb & Co Hotel St George 399, it was Howells and navigator Eric Hume who blitzed their way to a lead of one and half minutes after two laps of the long course.
The duo started first after an impressive display during yesterday’s prologue and top 10 shootout, and continued their good form right through the day’s first two laps.
Despite a mishap early on in the first lap, the Pro Buggy driver recovered well and showed strong pace for the remaining 150km, finishing his two laps in just over one and half hours.
“It was pretty nerve-wracking taking off first, and I didn’t make it any easier for myself, spinning out in that back corner of the track,” Howells said.
With his 90 second gap in hand, Howells knows Sunday’s longer day will be a challenge.
“I’ll take it as it comes, I’ll just put my head down and do exactly what I did today,” Howells added.
Talbot Cox finished the day in second place, showing plenty of promise throughout the weekend.
Beau Robinson ended the day in third, while Greg Gartner was less than a minute behind in fourth.
In one of the performances of the weekend to date, Jason Richards sits in fifth – and leads the pro-lite class after a standout Saturday.
Former Supercars driver Paul Weel also had a solid day out, finishing in seventh and loving every minute, and believes he’s still got some more pace to show.
“We had a good run, the truck’s good… the BFGoodrichs are working well,” Weel said.
“We got caught behind (Haydn) Bentley for basically a lap, we ended up catching him, gave him a little tap and he moved out of the way which was nice.”
— BFGoodrich Motorsport Aus. Off Road Championship (@MotorsportAORC) March 20, 2021
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Championship contenders, with plenty coming to grief in the tough conditions.
Toby Whately and Tony Whately both had an early finish to their days – Toby rolling at the end of the opening lap, while engine dramas forced the elder Whately to retire from the event. As of Saturday night, Toby is currently assessing whether he can start again on Sunday as the team works through the night to get the car ready to salvage some valuable Championship points.
Two laps remain tomorrow morning, before a final lap and a sprint to the finish on Sunday afternoon.
|Josh Howells Eric Hulme
|Talbot Cox Craig King
|Beau Robinson Shane Hutt
|Greg Gartner Jamie Jennings
|Jason Richards Kristy Richards
|Shane Elphinstone Adam Trewdale
|Paul Weel Andrew Reid
|Michael Spokes Brad Rogan
|Mark Burrows Matthew Burrows
|Kye Floyd Aarron Holland
Images: Terry Hill Photography