With just one week to go until the opening round of the 2019 BFGoodrich CAMS Australian Off Road Championship, aorc.com.au looks back at an entertaining corresponding round last year in preparation for the new season.
The dramatic 2018 St George 399 saw the emergence of a new title contender, the welcoming of some new off road talents, heartbreak for a previous champion and redemption for one of the sport’s greatest figures in Shannon Rentsch.
While nine-time Australian champion Rentsch took home his first victory for the year, it was also the first time he won the Queensland event after suffering a shock exit in 2017.
A slow start in the opening section saw him begin to work his way up in the next before blasting his way through the third and final section to pull off a sensation comeback over young gun Toby Whateley.
However it was the racing in the lead up to the frantic finish that had people talking and it didn’t involve the Victorian champion at all.
From South Australia, Whateley had a passable year in 2017 but had done a lot of work in the season on his SXS Turbo to be come more competitive – and it showed as he won the opening two sections after jumping Rentsch and Prologue winner Matt Hanson in the early stages of the race.
Remarkably it was the first time a SXS Turbo had won a section at the St George 399 and it also showed any doubters that Whateley was the real deal in 2018.
As the event went on though, the young driver was unable to hold off a rampaging Rentsch who had lots to prove and eventually Rentsch was too good and claimed victory.
Rounding out the top five for the season opener was Phil Lovett, Ryan Taylor and Luke Shadbolt, while 2017’s podium getters in Greg Campbell and Chris Browning finished seventh and eighth outright behind Craig McDonald.
As the battle at the top end entertained fans throughout the weekend, it was a day to forget for 2017 winner Matthew Martin who failed to make it past the first section.
After finishing eighth in Prologue, Martin knew he was done for and there was no way he could climb his way through the field but a retirement was not the way he would have wanted to start his title defence.
As one of the Championship’s major players fell, last year’s season opener also saw the welcoming of a few raw talents who would later build themselves as serious drivers in the field.
Josh Howells, Ally Howells and Rich Chambers made their debuts in the Championship and while it may not have been the best start for all of them, all three eventually finished in the top 10 come the end of the year.
In a testament to their talents, Chambers an Howells finished the event in 18th and 22nd respectively while Josh made it past the first section but failed to make it any further, retiring after just three laps.
With more competitors and kilometres added to this year’s Cobbs and Co Hotel St George 399, who knows what to expect in what is sure to be a thrilling start to the new season.
2018 Class Winners
Extreme 2WD – Chris Mingay and Chris Gelston
Pro Buggy – Geoff Pickerring and Dylan Watson
Pro Lite – Shannon Rentsch and Ian Rentsch
Performance 4wd – Chris Browning and Chris Clarke
Sports Lite – Mark Bredden
Sportsman – Aaron Nicoll and Lucy Heywood
Super 1650 – Werner Zettl
SXS Sport – Zachary Marsh and James Clarke
SXS Turbo – Toby Whateley and Simon Herrmann
Performance 2wd – Richie Swain and Karl Prolongaeu
Extreme 4wd – Lukas Yates and Jim Bardsley Dlan Innes