Having made the trek from Carnarvon to event headquarters at the Coonatha Race Complex, just outside of Gascoyne Junction, competitors in the 2015 Kickstarters Gascoyne Dash were greeted with fine conditions and a light breeze to clear the at times heavy dust. Having won their respective prologue runs on Friday morning, Shane Elphinstone (Hole Shot Pro buggy, Auto class) and Cody Upton (Honda CRF, Moto class) were afforded the relative luxury of dust free runs at the front of the chasing pack. Not making the trek out to Coonatha was the crew of Keith Rance & Murray Hodson in the # 54 Pro class Magnum buggy, gearbox failure ending their event during the prologue and putting an end to a trying few days after issues on the tow up from Perth.
Elphinstone led the auto field away at 7am and he laid down the gauntlet early, powering away from the field and extending his lead at every checkpoint, eventually finishing a tough day one with a lead of 7:30 over his nearest Auto competitor. An early casualty was the #52 Rimco Pro buggy of Adam Trewhella, rear arm failure resulting in an early finish to their weekend.
Having started the event in fourth position, Brett Renton had soon moved up to second on the road, passing the stricken Trewhella and the Bat Racing Pro buggy of Brad Cooper. Cooper was soon to struggle again with power steering issues, a split filter on the power steering system resulting in a loss of oil and a very tough day behind the wheel.
Taking advantage of Cooper’s issues was the #428 Extreme 2WD of Darryl Hardman, completing the day’s running in an outstanding third outright, 13 minutes behind Renton in second position, with Cooper in fourth. Chris May took the honours for biggest leap off the famous “Lochy’s Knob”, unfortunately his #766 Nissan didn’t enjoy the hard landing, severely bent suspension ending the weekend.
Having dominated Friday’s prologue, Cody Upton continued where he left off, setting a cracking pace to lead the Moto field away. Behind him, it was an early end to the day for the #5 Honda CRF of Andy Brack, a fall resulting in a broken collarbone and the end to his weekend. Taking full advantage of the clear air out in front, Upton increased his lead at every checkpoint, eventually finishing just over 15 minutes ahead of the nearest Moto competitor and almost 3 minutes faster than the leading Auto competitor.
Having completed the prologue with the seventh fastest time, Brad Smith was a man on a mission, picking his way through the field on board his #121 Yamaha quad to finish the day in second position, just over a minute ahead of the #651 KTM of Matthew Hart. Having started the day out of 13th position, it was a huge effort from Hart and puts him in a great position to push further up the field tomorrow.
Teams will now check their vehicles and make repairs before having the chance to rest up from a gruelling day of competition. Tomorrow sees teams tackle another 210 kilometres of racing, a new course utilising some of today’s track and some previously unraced sections.
Report and Pics thanks to Sean McTigue