The 2017 BFGoodrich CAMS Australian Off Road Championship had plenty of action, close racing, new events and old traditions. Take a look back at some of the highlights and memorable moments of this year’s championship.
New event: St George 399
The BFGoodrich CAMS Australian Off Road Championship visited the rural town of St George in south-west Queensland for the first time in 2017 to race at the St George 399, a brand new event on a brand new course. The driving force behind the event was Trent Challenger, the local baker, an off road enthusiast who had always dreamed of a national off road event in his home town. When the call came from the South East Queensland Off Road Association looking for a venue, Trent took matters into his own hands, accessing the land and designing and building the track himself with the help of a few locals. The inaugural St George 399 was a great success and the 2018 BFGoodrich CAMS AORC will return again in 2018.
Mingay’s rollover, St George 399
The BFGoodrich CAMS Australian Off Road Championship had barely kicked off when we saw our first big incident for the year. Chris Mingay and Jay Graham had a nasty end-on-end rollover in Mingay’s brand new Raptor TT during prologue. Thankfully, both were able to remove themselves from the car with Graham taken to hospital for further medical checks.
Go-Pro Gate, Tatts Finke Desert Race
As if the Tatts Finke Desert Race doesn’t have enough action and excitement already, the talk after day one was all about the Go-Pro that had come loose on the #13 Outer Bounds Racing Jimco buggy, ending up inside the cabin. Travis Robinson and Trent Anthony were forced to stop while leading the run to Finke to retrieve the offending Go-Pro and understandably, Robinson was not a happy camper. Thankfully, it didn’t affect the results of the event.
Shannon Rentsch’s fifth Finke Desert Race win
Shannon and Ian Rentsch again showed why they are one of the best off road teams in Australia at the 2017 Tatts Finke Desert Race. With much media hype surrounding the likes of the Robinson brothers and Toby Price, SR Racing went about their business quietly, successfully negotiating the run to Finke to put themselves second outright. On the run back to Alice, Rentsch was on a charge, catching Travis Robinson at each checkpoint and was only 35 seconds from the lead when a power steering failure sidelined Robinson’s #13 Jimco buggy. Shannon and Ian took a commanding victory, over three minutes clear of Beau Robinson, to claim an amazing fifth Finke Desert Race win and the 2017 King of the Desert title.
New event: Rainbow Desert Enduro
Another new event on the BFGoodrich CAMS AORC calendar and another success. The tiny rural town of Rainbow in western Victoria welcomed the off road community with open arms and turned on a fantastic event. The course itself, the longest AORC event in terms of kilometres, proved a favourite for many, presenting competitors with some of them most challenging off road racing for the year.
Mud bath at Rainbow
One of the biggest talking points at the Rainbow Desert Enduro was the weather! Significant rain in the lead up to the event made for muddy and slippery conditions and further rain over the weekend created even more challenges. Far from being a putting a dampener on things, the competitors were enthusiastic and dubbed the event a ‘real off road endurance event’ putting man and machine to the ultimate test.
BFGoodrich CAMS AORC down to the wire at Rainbow
Heading to the Rainbow Desert Enduro, Travis Robinson looked to be in the box seat of the BFGoodrich CAMS AORC, holding a 17-point lead from Matthew Martin. Chris Browning also remained in the running, albeit a further 74 points behind Martin. With a maximum of 529 points available at the round—1.5 times more points than at each of the first two rounds – anything was possible.
Robinson played it safe on day one of the event, placing a conservative third and bagging good points to position himself for a final tilt at the title.
Everything seemed to be going to plan on the final day of the championship until the #13 Jimco buggy became stranded out on course with a timing chain issue. This blew the championship wide open and it was Martin and Browning left to battle it out for the title.
As Browning crossed the line second outright and Martin in fourth, the championship result was still unknown – points were calculated and the champion announced… Martin had taken his first Australian Off Road Championship by just two points from Browning.
Class Championship battles
The outright BFGoodrich CAMS AORC was not the only title to go down to the wire… the battles for class championships were just as fierce.
The Extreme 2WD Championship was decided at the Rainbow Desert Enduro – Michael Mclean and John Stewart led the class by 54 points heading to the final round but were looking shaky when Beau Robinson took day one honours. Mclean and Stewart came through for the win, third in class enough to secure the title with Robinson’s day two retirement.
The popular Superlite B class was anyone’s, with Nathan Chivers and Scott O’Connor leading Greg Campbell by 26 points and Michael and Mitchel Schnieder a further 28 points adrift with one round to go. It was Greg Campbell that came through for the win, placing second in class at the Rainbow Desert Enduro.
The closest battle was between Paul Malt/Michelle Malt and Travis Rosewarne/Mark Nelson in the Extreme 4WD class; just one point separating the two teams after two rounds. Unfortunately for Rosewarne, mechanical issues sidelined him from day one and the husband and wife team took out their first class championship.
It was a great season of close, competitive racing.
Geoff Pickering’s 12th Class Championship
Geoff Pickering has been competing in off road for around 18 years and is often referred to as the ‘King of the Off Road’ for very good reason. In 2017, Pickering, with co-driver Dylan Watson, secured his 12th Australian Production 4WD Class Championship, an amazing achievement. He won the title by placing first at all three BFGoodrich CAMS AORC rounds including the Finke Desert Race, where he claimed his 13th class win from 14 attempts. The good news is Geoff plans to continue competing in 2018, aiming to win the Australian production 4WD class championship at 75 years of age.