After producing a career-high Polaris Motorsport Australia Off Road Championship (AORC) finish, Daniel Hughes is keen to carry on the momentum into the rest of the season.
In just his fourth AORC round behind the wheel of a Pro Buggy, Hughes and daughter Charlotte just missed out on a podium during the Wentworth Shire Pooncarie Desert Dash, finishing the round in P4 overall.
It was a strong performance from the father-daughter duo after they failed to finish March’s Markwell Group Gold City 450 due to a collection of mechanical dramas.
The season opener was a weekend to forget for the Queenslander, after his pro buggy suffered a broken CV on the Saturday before throwing a fuel pump on the Sunday.
Pulling the buggy apart in between rounds to fix the problem, his hard work paid off when the car ran almost faultlessly in the second round and they were able to have an issue-free run.
Throughout the Pooncarie Desert Dash, Hughes was constantly towards the top throughout every lap, and piled on plenty of pressure towards Brandle – ultimately missing out on the podium.
Despite missing the podium, Hughes has officially broken into the top 10 on the overall AORC standings as a result of his career-best finish, and he was both thrilled and relieved to finish so highly.
“Honestly, the result felt amazing, and we were in complete shock but it was definitely one of the best feelings ever,” Hughes said.
“On the final day, we knew we were in contention for a podium having seen Josh (Howells) out after rolling and Ryan (Taylor) having issues in the pits and we were watching the times.
“I was doing the sums while we were driving and it gave us the extra motivation to get home, which we did, and we were stoked with the overall result.
“We had a little problem with some of the safety gear on the final section and we were trying to fix up the straps and that lost us time, but we were trying our best and Charlotte was egging me on.
“I love having Charlotte beside me as my navigator. She is just 15-years-old and is so passionate about this, which is great. She is the best navigator I could hope for.
“All in all, we were just relieved to finish the event and the top five was a massive bonus.”
As for where he stands for the rest of the year, Hughes was looking for a championship charge for the remainder of the season.
“The intent is to have a crack at the entire championship this year and potentially upgrade from there,” Hughes added.
“We were in a SXS for the 2019 season, then we switched to this Southern Cross buggy for two rounds last year, so we will see what happens for the rest of the year.
“We are going to try our best at Finke. Prologue isn’t our strong suit, so we will aim to improve next year.
“Our strong suit is during long events when people can’t learn the track. Being on new terrain, where we want to make up ground.
“At Finke, it’s all about finishing and anything above that is a bonus.”
The AORC continues next month with the Tatts Finke Desert Race in Alice Springs on 9-12 June.