St George to embrace season opener duties

After three years on the BFGoodrich Motorsport Australia Off Road Championship (AORC) calendar, the Cobb & Co Hotel St George 399 will once again have the honours of hosting the opening round of the Championship.

Located in South East Queensland, the AORC season opener has continued to grow in popularity since first running on the national calendar in 2017 and last year, saw a record number of entries with around 70 crews competing.

With the Championship now expanding to five rounds, Clerk of Course Barry Neuendorff was excited for the new season ahead and believed preparations for the opening round were progressing well.

“Everything seems to be going reasonably well. We’re working with the South Eastern Queensland Off Road Racing Association to get the event off the ground and it’s exciting that we’re not far away,” Neuendorff said.

“It’s great that we once again start the season off. It’s round one of a national championship and in a way, it puts on a little pressure on us as we have to make sure we are a flagship event and do something spectacular.

“We want our competitors to enjoy the event, as well as the fans and officials, so we are really busting our guts to make it something special. I’m trying to bring a lot of things into the town for the event.”

For the past two years, nine-time AORC champion Shannon and Ian Rentsch have taken out the Queensland round, where crews complete around 399 competitive kilometres on three sections across a mixture of land, banks and man-made dams.

Following on from a successful year in 2019, which saw the track increased by 20 kilometres and spectator points improved, Neuendorff believes the course doesn’t require too much change and will remain similar to last year.

“The course is effectively the same as 2019 but we may take some of the really tight bends out which presented a problem in previous years,” Neuendorff added.

“We need to make sure it isn’t favourable for the big buggies and it needs to be equal. To me the course needs to accommodate all vehicles and I believe we have achieved that in the past so we will look to continue that again.

“We’re happy with the way the course is so it will remain predominantly the same – it’s just a matter of smartening it up so really, the difference will be a lot more upmarket.”

The tight bend removals aren’t the only intended changes for the 2020 AORC season opener with Neuendorff hoping to make this year’s event more of a spectacle.

“We really want to continue the great reputation our event has,” Neuendorff explained.

“We did a good job last year which means people will come back again this year. If we do a good job again this year, then they all will continue to come in the future.

“Over the coming weeks, I will be meeting the local council, police and traffic management people to continue discussions for the event. We want to move Scrutineering from its previous position at the football oval and into the heart of the town around the esplanade of the Balonne River.

“We are also trying to incorporate some other forms of entertainment including fireworks, which will depend on the weather, as well as market stalls, bands and other activations to make the 2020 Cobb & Co Hotel St George 399 as grand as we can.”

Registration for the 2020 season are now open with interested competitors are encouraged to apply before 20 March.

The Cobb & Co Hotel St George 399 kicks off the 2020 BFGoodrich Australian Off Road Championship in St George on 3-5 April.