Travis Robinson ends 2023 title with Kalgoorlie victory

Travis Robinson and Andrew Pinto have capped off their Polaris Motorsport Australia Off Road Championship (AORC) title-winning year with victory in the Black Diamond Drilling Kalgoorlie Desert Race.

With the event shortened to just two sections following the cancellation of Saturday’s racing, Robinson and Pinto ended up taking out their home round by one minute over Outer Bounds Racing teammates Beau Robinson and Shane Hutt.

Rounding out the Kalgoorlie podium in his AORC return was Shane Elphinstone and navigator Mariah Baxter, after the duo pipped fellow West Australians Troy Higgins and John Simmons on the final section.

Despite posting the second fastest time in section two, Elphinstone and Baxter ended the event three and a half minutes off Beau and Hutt, who went on to win the section.

Starting the race from the front of the field after winning Friday’s prologue, Beau and Hutt had a solid start to the day’s first of two 121km laps, but their Trophy Truck suffered gearbox issues midway through the section, causing them to lose lots of time.

Photos: Dakar Press Team Australia

Fortunately they were able to finish the section, however they were overtaken by Travis and Pinto at the halfway point, before falling two minutes behind, as the 2023 AORC Champions showed the same pace they had in Friday’s Prologue.

With Beau and Hutt required to pass Travis and Pinto and build a solid gap over them in order to win the event, it was always going to be a challenge. Although they won the section, Travis and Pinto cruised to the third fastest time for the section, which proved enough to win the event.

The victory was the perfect way to end the season for Travis, who ended the 2023 AORC season with one win, three podiums and a fourth place.

“It’s been a good year. We were just looking to get back into the sport and I had a bit of a crack today – it was good – looks like we’ve still got it,” Travis said.

“It was a good way to cap off the year and one-two with my brother, I just wish me my old man was here to see it. So it’s good.

“We just ran our own race. Beau was definitely the man to beat because was amazing. We were pretty amazed at how quick he was going around that track because it is quite tight.”

Finishing second on the outright AORC Driver Championship standings for 2023 was South Australian Mel Brandle, who ended the weekend in 10th place alongside navigator Emily Brandle.

The duo’s third top 10 finish for the year was enough for them to solidify the Australian number two plate, as well as claim the national Prolite class title, while Kiwi Raana Horan rounded out the Championship outright top three after finishing Kalgoorlie in fifth place.

Although Kalgoorlie was only Horan’s second event for the year, a top five placing in addition to the Wentworth Shire Pooncarie Desert Dash outright victory saw him leapfrog James Cook, who finished the Kalgoorlie event in 15th outright

While Cook missed out on a top three outright finish, he and navigator Mitch Aucote did what they had to do to win the highly competitive SXS Motorsport Australia Championship title fight, having produced a perfect day with two SXS section wins.

Having posted the fastest SXS time on Friday, Cook and Aucote picked up where they left off today and dominated both two laps – with a three minute section one victory setting up their round win and second SXS title.

“We couldn’t be happier. It’s just an amazing feeling coming here and getting it done. It’s a long way to come for the team,” Cook said.

“I can’t take all the credit. My navigator Mitch (Aucote) makes my job so easy, all the mechanics, everyone – it’s a team effort and a great feeling.

“This season has been up and down for us. It’s been a rollercoaster. Obviously, winning the first event outright, then running out of fuel at Pooncarie, then winning Finke, then having mechanical issues in Loveday – then to come here and just get it done is sweet.

“Honestly, we just wanted to look after the car this weekend and not have any issues. We wanted to come out with that number one plate and we did, so we are absolutely stoked.”

Other notable results for the event included Stephen Ketteridge-Hall and Haylee Cowling winning the Prolite class over the Brandles, as well as finishing in seventh place to split two powerhouse West Australian crews with Jared Percival and Joshua Howat in sixth and Troy and Deb Schoen in eighth.

Nicholas Commins and Ryan Galvin’s outright ninth place in Kalgoorlie saw them second for the weekend in the Extreme 2WD Class behind Beau and Hutt – which was enough to secure them the outright national class title.

View full results from the Black Diamond Drilling Kalgoorlie Desert Race.

The 2023 AORC season has officially concluded with the 2024 season to begin with the Wentworth Shire Pooncarie Desert Dash on 19-21 April.