Travis Robinson and Andrew Pinto have claimed the 2023 Polaris Motorsport Australia Off Road Championship (AORC) title after securing an unassailable championship lead at the Loveday 400.
It was a troubled weekend for all of the top end of the championship, with Robinson and Pinto salvaging a fourth place finish for the event. Whilst fellow title rivals Mel and Liam Brandle/Emily Brandle finished in sixth, and reigning SXS Champions James Cook and Mitch Aucote limping home outside the top 10.
Taking out the Loveday 400 victory were nine-time AORC Champions Shannon and Ian Rentsch, who enjoyed a perfect weekend to win their first AORC round since the 2019 St George 399, crossing the line at Loveday with a total time of four hours and 18 minutes.
Rentsch led from start to finish throughout the event, building on from his four-minute lead after Saturday to comfortably beat Tom Owen and Damon Bennett by almost six minutes.
While it was an exceptional display from Rentsch, the battle behind him was one of the most thrilling of the weekend as Owen eventually edged out 2019 AORC runner-up Roydn Bailey and Dean Ellbourn by more than one minute.
The two crews were neck-and-neck for much of the event, with Bailey just three seconds ahead into the final section, before a strong run in the last two laps from Owen saw the young gun claim second place by just over a minute – a brilliant effort considering it was Owen’s second race.
Finishing in fourth behind the two crews were Robinson and Pinto, who despite multiple mechanical issues affecting their race, comfortably beat Prolite winners Alan Dixon and Zachary O’Bree.
With Dixon and O’Bree finishing 55 seconds ahead of the Brandles to finish fifth outright, Robinson and Pinto had built a big enough lead to be crowned as champions-elect with one round to go.
“It feels good – all the years and lessons from the old man (Brian Robinson) is finally paid off,” Robinson said
“It’s been a testing year, but we’ve got it all together and yeah, it’s amazing to have won the title.
“We have had lots of curveballs thrown at us this season, but we’ve just kept it together and it’s been a very hectic year, but we have come together as a team.
“No doubt, the old man was watching over us.”
As for Rentsch, the nine-time AORC champion was thrilled to finally win a round after a challenging few years.
“It’s been a good week and it’s been a long time between drinks, as we haven’t won for a while, so it’s good to be out the front again,” Rentsch said.
“It’s a bit of relief to win – I have a bit more confidence back now. We built this new car a couple of years ago now, but it’s been a bit of a challenge getting to where we like – we’re starting to get on top of it now and getting some results.
“I had a bit of moment late in the race, where I lost a fair bit of time, but other than that, we had a pretty clean run all week and no mechanical trouble really, which is good.
“I am proud of Travis for winning as well – not just Trav, but for Beau and the whole family. It’s great for the family – they’ve put a lot of work in over the years and Travis come close a couple of times, so it’s good for those guys to to to get a reward for all the work that I do. I’m sure.
“Brian, I’d be up there looking over so proud as punch. So that’s very happy for him.”
While the AORC title race is all but wrapped up, the high attrition of Loveday sees the SXS Motorsport Australia Championship title race continue to the season finale. A handful of crews struggled to have a clean run on the challenging Loveday course.
Lachlan Bailey and Nathan Sracek had little issues though, as the South Australians enjoyed a comfortable 16-minute victory over Greg and Lachlan Campbell, with the two crews placing seventh and eighth respectively outright.
Rounding out the top 10 were another pair of SXS Pros with Graham and Aaron Colbran beating Glenn Brinkman and Dale Moscatt by more than two minutes.
Other notable class victors who finished all 10 laps included Connor Corrigan and Sarah Galliford, who finished 14th overall and took out the Super 1650 class, and Sean and Mathew Beck who claimed top honours in the Performance 2WD class.
The fifth and final round of the 2023 Polaris Motorsport Australia Off Road Championship season will take place at the Kalgoorlie Desert Race on 19-22 October.