The Polaris Motorsport Australia Off Road Championship (AORC) resumes this weekend for the fourth round of the 2023 season, with the Loveday 400 to take centre stage.
More than 50 crews are entered in what is considered one of the most entertaining events on the AORC calendar, with 10 laps of the 40km course spread over four sections making up the highly challenging schedule.
There are plenty of notable names entered in the round, which is headlined by nine-time AORC champion Shannon Rentsch and his father Ian – the duo keen to overcome a challenging Finke Desert Race where they finished sixth.
Standing in Rentsch’s way for top honours are a number of AORC regulars, including the likes of Daniel and Charlotte Hughes, 2019 outright runner-up Roydn Bailey and Dean Ellbourn, and Prolite leader Mel Brandle.
Other notable drivers entered the South Australian event include Nicholas Commins, Nic Hicks, Alan Dixon and Luke Erceg – all of whom are capable of getting a good result.
However, although there are more than 50 crews on the entry list, all eyes will be on the #13 Pro Buggy of the current championship leaders, Travis Robinson and Andrew Pinto. The West Australian duo are in the box seat to win the title as early as this weekend.
Having appeared on the podium in every round of the season so far, Robinson has undoubtedly been the standout performer of the year and is highly deserving of his 129 point lead at the top of the standings.
With 100 points on offer at Loveday and a maximum of 150 points up for grabs at the season finale in Kalgoorlie, Robinson can easily win the title this weekend should he finish more than 150 points ahead of anyone.
Reigning SXS champions James Cook and Mitch Aucote lead the pack behind in second place overall, however the duo will need to deliver a special performance, much like their historic Markwell Group Gold City 450 win earlier in the year, to keep the title fight going into the final round.
With scrutineering to be completed before the event, the Loveday 400 will follow a different format to the more traditional off road schedule as seen in events like Gold City and Pooncarie Desert Dash.
Beginning with Prologue at 2:30pm ACST on Friday afternoon, competitors will have a crack at a shortened section of the track to get that ever-important starting place for the opening section.
The official race will then get underway at 8:30am ACST on Saturday morning with the first of four sections to take place, where crews will complete two laps of the course before tackling a further three laps in section two.
Section three on Sunday morning will consist of a further three laps, before the remaining two are run in the afternoon for the final section.
While Prologue will set up the starting order for section one, the starting places for the remaining three sections will be determined by the results of the previous section.
As seen in the event’s maiden appearance on the AORC calendar last year, attending fans are the big winners for the event as the spectator points offer panoramic views of most of the course, meaning the crowd can follow the action for much of the event.
With the iconic Loveday Tavern open for business and in close proximity of the spectator points, attending fans will have no problem enjoying the spectacle.
For those unable to attend, they can easily follow via the livestream on the event’s Facebook page, while there will be live results on offroadracing.com.au and live tracking on RallySafe.
Event organiser Tony Whateley was looking forward to welcoming the AORC once again.
“We had a fantastic year last year and I have no doubt that this year will be no different,” Whateley said.
“There are some really talented drivers here this weekend, but you can’t go past the exciting prospect that Travis (Robinson) can win the Australian title this year.
“The fans will have the best seat in the house to potentially witness this exciting achievement and we will make sure the taps are flowing to make sure everyone comfortably soaks in the spectacle.
“We also have some really nice weather on the cards too, so everything is point to an enjoyable weekend.”
The Loveday 400 takes place at Loveday 4×4 Adventure Park on 28-30 July.