April 29, 2016: Matthew Kittle and Jordon Johannsen have won the opening round of the 2016 Australian Off Road Championship, the BFGoodrich Tires Sunraysia 600. Held over two days and 600km on Keera Station west of Mildura, Kittle survived a real test of endurance as he battled against 79 other teams in the dry and dusty conditions. Piloting the twin turbo V6 powered #23 Peter Kittle Motorsport Jimco, he charged from tenth on the grid into fifth during Saturdays first two laps, then pounced on the lead during the closing stages of the race on Sunday, when the leader #13 Travis Robinson retired with a broken tie rod. After 6 laps Kittle and Johannsen greeted the chequered flag in a total time of 6hr 21min 35.31sec to take the event win and their maiden AORC round victory.
Second outright was the husband and wife team of Aaron and Liz Haby in the #57 Element. Starting in third after the top ten shoot out, Haby slipped back to ninth due to an unscheduled pit stop during lap two on Saturday. On Sunday morning the Haby’s knuckled down and the Aussie built V8 Element Prodigy thrived in the rough track conditions. With Robinson and Owen sidelined, Haby was determined to keep Kittle honest and made a last lap assault on the lead. They sliced a minute off his lead, but it wasn’t quite enough and they were forced to settle for second, 1min 07sec behind Kittle.
Dale Martin and Adrian Rowe became the first prolite on the AORC podium since Fehlhaber at the Lockyer 300 in 2014. The Victorians took third outright in their #103 Tatum, after a close battle with #91 Jack Rhodes & David Pullino and their Prolite class mates, #135 Andrew Mowles/Matt Morgan (5th outright) and #138 Tony Fehlhaber/Gary Howell (6th outright).
A trio of Extreme 2WD trucks filled seventh, eighth and ninth with 2015 Class champions Steven Sanderson and Tahlia O’Cass taking the upper hand in their #401 Jimco truck, ahead of the twin turbo V6 powered #454 Geiser Bros Chevy of Brad Gallard and navigators Scott Modistach and Kyle Pfitzner. Backing up from successful campaigns at Griffith and the Condo 750 in their #433 Micklefab Raptor, Michael Denham with navis Ross Arico and Peta Murray rounded out the Extreme 2WD podium at the BFGoodrich Tires Sunraysia 600.
Capping the top ten was North Queensland’s Talbot Cox and Andrew North in their #16 Carbon Series Racer.
A late charge by #233 Graham and Bodie Tickner wasn’t enough to reel in former Super 1650 AORC Champs, Werner and Sue Zettl who took the class win in their #232 Jarvi by 4min 48sec from Tickner.
The inclusion of the new Superlite Class into the AORC delivered a strong field of Polaris and Can-Am UTVs. In the turbo category the Can-Am Mavericks dominated, taking first, second and third. With offroad young gun #621 Toby Whateley and Simon Herrmann snatching the class win from #673 Jeff McNiven and Frank Waite on the last lap. While Toby’s father, Tony Whateley with navigator Mark Petersen took third. In the naturally aspirated Superlite Class it was an all Polaris affair, with Brent and Arlene Perrett taking the win in their #644 Polaris RZR 1000. #636 Tim Dewhurst and Tim Scott were second, ahead of ARC Champs, #619 Cody Crocker and Greg Foletta. Crocker has been in a commanding position earlier in the race, however a broken shock saw the lead slip away while they implanted trackside repairs to make it to the finish.
Just a few days short of his 16th birthday, Stuart Chapman made the most of the special dispensation given by CAMS allowing him to race. Taking the Performance 2WD Class win in his first AORC event with navigator Ross Challacombe in the trademark red #514 Chapmans Offroad Mitsubishi Triton. Hillbilly Racing’s Paul Youman and Graham Kluck recovered from a DNF in section one due to broken wheel studs on their #501 Hilux to finish second in class.
Amy Chapman and navigator Lincoln Staude drove their #702 Nissan Patrol to the Production 4WD Class honours to cap off a successful weekend for the Chapman and Perrett families in the Sunraysia. After finishing 2nd outright in class last year, the win was Amy’s first national class win. Kingsley and Heath Weedon took their #860 Nissan Patrol to first in class for Extreme 4WD, ahead of Clayton Chapman and Adam McGuire in the #802 Mitsubishi Triton.
26 AORC competitors of the original 80 starters completed all six 100km laps of Keera Station. The reigning AORC Champ, Shannon Rentsch was a notable absentee from the winners circle. After qualifying second in the top ten shoot out Rentsch had a rare DNF in section one due to brake and CV issues. He returned to the track on Sunday to win section 2 ahead of Haby and Kittle and put the AORC field on notice that he will be a force to be reckoned with at Finke.
The Australian Off Road Championship now heads to the red centre for the second round of the season, the 41st Tatts Finke Desert Race on 10-13 June.