The Polaris Motorsport Australia Off Road Championship (AORC) is back and it’s the rural town of Pooncarie in New South Wales who has the responsibility of hosting the best off roaders in the country this weekend.
A solid field of around 50 crews will battle it out throughout the event as crews look to build on their campaigns from the Markwell Group Gold City 450 earlier this year.
Gearing up for its second year on the AORC calendar, the Wentworth Shire Pooncarie Desert Dash is run by the Sunraysia Motorsport Club, who have been working hard to get the event picture perfect again.
One of the biggest challenges for the club in the lead up to this year’s event has been the course itself due to the recent floods, and as a result of having to rework the track to avoid any drama, the length of the course has been extended.
Its original distance was just over 90 kilometres, however with the new adjustments, the course has been bumped up to 106 kilometres, meaning crews will tackle up to 430 kilometres across the weekend.
Starting off with the seven-kilometre Prologue on Saturday morning, crews will then tackle the first section in the afternoon, which will consist of one lap of the course.
On Sunday, section two will see the remaining crews complete a further three laps in what is one of the biggest challenges throughout the year.
Before the event gets underway though, the full field will be on display at the event on Friday afternoon for Scrutineering and a Show ‘n’ Shine at 3pm AEST.
From a competitor point of view, there will be plenty of crews capable of contending for outright honours despite a few late withdrawals.
Reigning champion Ryan Taylor enters the event as favourite, having picked up his first career win here last year as well as claiming a podium in the season opener.
Challenging Taylor for both outright and Pro Buggy honours include Josh Howells, who will be looking to get back on the podium after an unlucky run of DNFs and Travis Robinson, who will be hoping to make it consecutive podiums after a brilliant run in Charters Towers.
Other regulars capable of grabbing an outright podium include Prolite star Mel Brandle, Trophy Truck guns Brett Comiskey and Toby Whateley and current championship leader James Cook, who will be keen to continue his good form after winning the season opener.
There will also be a few visitors from across the Tasman showcasing their skills on Australian soil with Raana Horan and John Morgan both ones to keep an eye on.
Both talented steerers, the New Zealanders will fancy their chances as proven race winners, with Morgan having won the Black Diamond Drilling Kalgoorlie Desert Race in 2018.
Event Clerk of Course Troy Bennett was excited for the weekend and to once again host a strong AORC field, which can be viewed here.
“We had a really good first year in 2022 and we’re thrilled to be able to be back on the calendar once again,” Bennett said.
“With the event just around the corner, the reality is setting in now and I think it’s been an extraordinary effort by the club and its volunteers to get the track to where it is now.
“The Wentworth shire community have also been incredibly supportive and they have been getting behind the event in every possible way, so I expect to see quite a few people here on the weekend watching on.
“We actually have some really good spectator points this year too where fans will be able to see this highly strong field tackle large portions of the track.”
Fans can keep up to date with the event through the AORC’s live blog and social media channels – including on 7plus, which will also broadcast selected highlights in the weeks following the event.
The Wentworth Shire Pooncarie Desert Dash takes place in Pooncarie on 21-23 April.