The Champs Shine As Goondiwindi Gets Drenched

One of the most anticipated rounds of the 2011 Australian Off Road Championship, the Albins Goondiwindi 400 was over before the drivers could select first gear last weekend. When a series of storms passed through the South-Western Queensland town on Friday night and continued in to the early hours of Saturday morning, drenching the race track and pit area and forcing the event organisers to cancel the event.

After extreme wet weather saw the event pulled from the AORC calendar in 2010, this years event attracted a high quality field of 60 racecars that were all eager to open the throttle wide and blast down Malapunyah Run and test their suspension to the extreme on the extended 80km loop. While the weather weighed heavily in the back of the competitors and organisers minds, the event kicked off as planned with scrutineering at the Goondiwindi Showgrounds on Friday night. From early in the evening an impressive array of offroad racing machinery was fanned out onto the oval in front of the scrutineering shed. Dan Bonnor’s new proclass GET Chassis from the USA attracted plenty of attention, while Brad Prout’s Jimco was a favourite with the kids after participating in some displays to promote the race and road safety at the local Goondiwindi schools with Rusty Bell on Friday afternoon.

Later that evening the first storm rolled through, followed by another just after midnight. With the track already heavy due to rain in the weeks leading up to the event the decision was made at 5:30am to cancel Saturdays racing. The hope was that any further rain would hold off and that a new, shorter track could be created to allow racing to commence on Sunday. However Mother Nature had other plans when another storm lashed the region at 11:30, putting the final nail in the coffin for the 2011 Albins Goondiwindi 400.

Heading into the final round, the championship was still up for grabs. But with the event cancelled before the prologue could even begin, the championship points would remain as they were after Round 4 at Millicent. Leaving the reigning Australian Off Road Champions David Fellows and Mark Bergamin to claim back to back AORC titles for Peter Kittle Motorsport. The South Australians finished out in front with 63 points, ahead of mid-mounted V8 Jimco of Danny Auricht and Grant Connelly in second with 40 points and the Tattersall’s Finke Desert Race winners Greg Gartner and Jamie Jennings in third on 28 points.

The solid foundations for Fellows second consecutive championship were laid early in the season, with outright wins at the ARB Pinjarra Engineering 450, The Bentleys Cabin Park Flinders 450 and the Teagle Excavations ARB Pines Enduro.

“We got the results we were looking for during the year to put us into this position, so we are very happy.” Said Fellows

“It would have been better for everyone if there was a race on, but no one can control the weather and unfortunately for the organisers it was out of their hands. We’re rapped that we have won another championship. It took us a long time to win a Finke Desert Race and a long time to win this and then we won three Finkes in a row, so maybe we can win three of these in a row.” Said team owner Peter Kittle

The presentation dinner and AORC awards night which was originally scheduled for Sunday night at the Goondiwindi Cultural Centre was moved to the Royal Hotel on Saturday evening while most of the competitors were still in town. By 7pm the venue was bursting at the seams with offroad racers wanting to acknowledge the achievements of the 2011 champions. The Tri-Series trophies were awarded first, followed by the AORC Class and Outright Championship winners.

The champion driver in the Extreme 4WD Class was Russell Cullen, who will be taking the 801 plate back to Western Australia for the first time on his V8 Patrol. Colin Hunters navigator in the Dodge Dakota, Simon Campbell was the champion navigator in the Extreme 4WD Class. While the North Queensland based team of Geoff Pickering and Dylan Watson moved back into familiar territory, reclaiming the Production 4WD Class Championship in their Mitsubishi Pajero.

Craig Weaire and David Adriaans walked away with the Performance 2WD Championship, while Greg Gartner and Jamie Jennings capped off their rollercoaster of a season with the Extreme 2WD Championship.

Despite not making the trip to Goondiwindi, Murray and Jake England took the Sportsman Buggy Class honours, ahead of the Alice Springs based team of Grant Ballantine and Richard Hawkins who had planned on reeling in Englands lead at the final round. Darryl Smith and Michael Matthews backed up their 2010 Super 1650 Class Championship with another Class Victory in 2011, while the Prolite honours went to the Mildura based team of Aaron James and Brett Plant in the Nissan VQ35 powered Razorback. With outright wins in three out of the four rounds, and a solid class result at the Finke Desert Race,  David Fellows and Mark Bergamin also added the Pro Class Championship to their long list of achievements in 2011.

While the Albins Goondiwindi 400 marks the end of the 2011 Australian Off Road Championship season, keep tuned for the announcement of the 2012 AORC Calendar in the near future.