Like the Loveday 400, last year saw the Black Diamond Drilling get its first chance to run an event as part of the Polaris Motorsport Australia Off Road Championship (AORC).
And the West Australian event certainly had a memorable debut on the national calendar after the 2022 title fight went right down to the wire.
In the lead-up to the event, there were six individuals in contention for winning the 2023 drivers championship, with Jake Swinglehurst and Ryan Taylor the two main protagonists.
Joining the two Queenslanders as title contenders were Mel Brandle, Brett Comiskey, Brent Smoothy and Garry Turnbull, all six drivers in with a genuine shot.
However, when the challenging three-section event eventually got underway, it was apparent that Swinglehurst and Taylor were the drivers to beat, as the former got off to an ideal start with victory in Prologue alongside navigator Kate Swinglehurst.
Finishing Prologue just four-tenths behind in second place was hometown hero Beau Robinson and navigator Shane Hutt, while Taylor and Kye Floyd finished six seconds off in third place – beating another local crew in Shane and Zane Elphinstone by two-tenths.
With 77 crews entered in Kalgoorlie in 2022, the top four crews were a cut above the rest as the Swinglehursts took another giant step towards their title push – the sister-brother combination taking out the first section by a solid 11 seconds over Robinson and Hutt.
Remarkably, Swinglehurst overcame mechanical problems to secure the fastest lap in an impressive display, an error around Lake Perkolilli from a fast-charging Robinson helping Swinglehurst remain on top.
The 11-second buffer looked very small compared to the gap between drivers beneath them, with Taylor and Floyd a further minute and a half off Robinson and Floyd, as well as enjoying a decent buffer of three and a half minutes over Smoothy and Reece Burgess – three and a half minutes the difference at the midway point.
Rounding out the top five after the first section were 2021 winners Nic Hicks and Mark Gator, and both Brandle and Turnbull both sat within the top 10 but lost distance fast.
Just outside the top 10 was SXS Motorsport Australia Championship leaders James Cook and Mitch Aucote in 11th, the SXS pilots just one place ahead of the sixth contender in Brett Comiskey and Corey Cooper.
While Saturday’s action seemed fairly straightforward, the championship fight would be turned on its head on Sunday.
The most notable story to occur from the day’s morning section saw Swinglehurst suffering mechanical issues and finishing the section in 32nd – a big blow to his charge as Taylor and Floyd finished second behind Robinson and Floyd.
The Queenslander still had enough points to hold onto a slender lead over Taylor and it was going to be extremely tight, but when Swinglehurst pulled up to the side of the road in the third and final section – his title hopes were officially over.
Robinson and Hutt eventually crossed the finish line in top spot to take out the event win, while Taylor and Floyd reached the chequered flag in second place – securing an emotional championship victory for the Taylor family.
Rounding out the event podium was Turnbull and his daughter Tamara, but with Smoothy and Burgess finishing in fifth place, the West Australian trophy truck pilots locking in outright second place for the season.
Following a disappointing Prologue, Comiskey and Cooper finished a great recovery drive to finish eighth overall and land third for the season.
The 2023 Black Diamond Drilling Kalgoorlie Desert Race takes place in Kalgoorlie on 20-22 October.