After another breakout season in the BFGoodrich Motorsport Australia Off Road Championship (AORC), Josh Howells is ready for another title charge next year.
The New South Welshman and his co-driver Eric Hume had a brilliant start to 2021, with his maiden AORC victory at the Cobb & Co Hotel St George 399 followed by a runner-up finish at the iconic Tatts Finke Desert Race.
Unfortunately the 2021 season was called off due to the cancellation of the Hindmarsh Shire Rainbow Desert Enduro and the current travel restrictions around the nation forcing the Black Diamond Drilling Kalgoorlie Desert Race and Can-Am Loveday 400 to be standalone events.
As a result, Howells will have to wait until next year for another chance at going for that championship title.
However, the 27-year-old will not finish the season empty handed after it was decided that on top of Kalgoorlie and Loveday running as the respective BFGoodrich Motorsport Australia Off Road Cup events, St George will now be recognised as the BFGoodrich Motorsport Australia Off Road Cup – East.
Although disappointed he was unable to continue his national campaign, Howells was pleased to have some extra recognition for his year.
“It’s nice to be recognised with the BFGoodrich Motorsport Australia Off Road Cup – East and we really appreciate it,” Howells said.
“We obviously got a lot of recognition in March when we won the event itself, which was nice. It’s one thing to be at the end of an event, but to lead from start to finish is special.
“It’s great to win the cup, but obviously we’re disappointed that the season came to end early– especially since my car was completely fine after Finke and it didn’t miss a beat.
“It’s funny because in previous years, we have only gone to rounds to run the race and haven’t watched the points, but this year was the first time I was focused on how we could go in the outright championship.
“We haven’t had the car that long but it’s really dialled up now, so I have a lot of confidence going into next year.”
Howells’ rise up the ranks in the AORC has been remarkable.
Debuting in 2017 and sharing a buggy with sister Ally, the duo split in 2018 as Howells Motorsport opted to run a two-car setup.
While his sister showed plenty of fight in the Prolite class to finish second behind only Alan Dixon, Howells had an incredible run to third on the outright standings behind eventual champion Shannon Rentsch and fellow young gun Toby Whateley.
However a difficult year in 2019, which started off with a DNF at the St George 399, prevented the team from making any headway, but it only motivated them more as they spent all of 2020 priming the car for a proper charge in 2021.
Although Howells has been unable to continue his near-perfect start another season, he is still surprised how quickly he has improved towards the top end of the competition.
“It’s a bit of a surprise as to how quickly I have risen up the ranks. We just started going to AORC rounds in 2018 and ended up in third outright, so it’s a bit of a shock,” Howells said.
“I knew I had the speed going into 2019 and I love St George, but rolling there put me out of contention for the season. With five rounds then part of the schedule this year, I thought we had a real chance of winning and running at the top.
“I still sort of pinch myself at the thought that a lot of people expect me to be one of the quickest. It wasn’t something we envisaged, but it’s awesome nonetheless.
“For me, I really feel like St George is a drivers’ track. It’s got a bit of everything – just like Rainbow when it’s dry, whereas Finke is not so technical but more about who has more courage.
“I was also excited to go to Loveday too and I am still hopeful that I can get there for the event later this month. We are entered and still have every intention to go until we are told we can’t.”