Whenever a driver upgrades their car, there is usually a small transition period that follows where more seat time is required before the good results start rolling in.
However, for Mel Brandle, the transition period has barely been existent as his results have been significantly better than first expected.
Since switching to an ex-Glen Owens Prolite buggy at the end of 2020, the South Australian has gone from struggling to reach the finish line in his SXS to becoming a national class leader and contending for state championship victories.
With two rounds completed in the BFGoodrich Motorsport Australia Off Road Championship, Brandle currently leads his new class by a comfortable 144 points over Andrew Mowles, while being ranked 34th on the outright standings.
The season started on a high for the 47-year-old, who finished 15th outright at the Cobb & Co Hotel St George 399, before a snapped accelerator cable 25km from the Tatts Finke Desert Race finish line saw him end round two in 41st.
With Brandle first anticipating taking a bit longer to get himself in a seriously competitive car, the South Australian has been thrilled with how his season has panned out.
“Getting into a new car, we took this year as purely a learning year and were focused on improving how we drive it and how it operates, so to be in the position that we are now– I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” Brandle said.
“We had a Yamaha SXS previously and it just didn’t seem to hold up. We had a couple of goes at St George and Finke but couldn’t finish so we decided to do something about it.
“Now, we are 100 per cent happy with the outcome. Of course we have had our misfortunes this year but from a frame and structure perspective, the car is sound and we’re loving it.”
While Brandle is continuing to impress at a national level, his state level performances have been just as good – the major highlight being the recent 2021 Gotcha Glass Wynarka Enduro.
Starting from eighth place in Prologue, Brandle ended up finishing the South Australian Off Road Racing Association’s endurance event comfortably in second place behind gun Aaron Haby.
The result unsurprisingly has given Brandle a new sense of confidence about his current journey, as he looks for more seat time in his new car.
”Wynarka’s second place was a fantastic outcome and has given us plenty of confidence for the remainder of the 2021 season, whatever that may be,” Brandle added.
“To make up six places in a tough event was great. Even though some of the other guys were a bit faster than us on the first day, our pace was on par with them for the second day.
“We did have a bit of luck on our side in terms of the others having issues but of course we had minor dramas of our own, so it evened out a little bit – that’s off road racing in a nutshell.
“At the moment, I am just looking forward to hopefully getting out to the Rainbow Desert Enduro. It’s such a great event and we have missed out on it over the past couple of years, so fingers crossed we can finally get there again.”
Feature Photo: Brandle during the 2021 St George 399. Credit: Terry Hill Photography