Dominating the 2017 ARB Sunraysia 400 from start to finish, the Victorian team of Shannon and Ian Rentsch have taken their second outright victory on Keera Station in the past three years. The rain in the lead up to the event forced a last minute race format change to 6 laps of a shortened 65k lap, which Rentsch took to like a duck to water. Starting from pole, Rentsch quickly opened up a comfortable lead as he skated his way through the greasy farm tracks early on Sunday morning. As the track dried out Rentsch picked up the pace and locked in the quickest loop of Keera Station of the weekend, a 33:40.179 on lap 5. A flat tyre on the final lap was the only glitch in what was a near perfect performance and they greeted the chequered flag in the twin turbo V6 powered #33 SR Racing Jimco in an overall time of 3hr 33min 28sec.
Second and third outright mirrored the 2016 Sunraysia 400 podium with Aaron and Liz Haby piloting their #57 Element into second ahead of the VQ35 powered #103 Tatum Class 1 of Dale Martin and AJ Rowe in third. Starting second on the grid, Aaron Haby went toe to toe with NZ’s Raana Horan before a flat tyre on lap 3 saw him tumble down the leaderboard. Horan’s charge was also soon halted due to electrical issues, while an expired engine left Burrow’s on the side of the track tantalisingly close to a podium finish. Meanwhile Haby put his head down and weaved his way back through the field to finish second on the podium, 7min 3sec behind Rentsch. Going quietly about his business, Dale Martin had been slicing vital seconds off his lap times on almost every pass. At the conclusion of the 6 laps he crossed the finish line just 1min 10 seconds behind Haby to secure 3rd outright and first in Class 1 for 3500cc powerplants.
The Unlimited buggies of #41 Tyler Owen and Oliver Stephens (3rd in class) and the BMW powered #9 Jimco of Chris Wilson and Blake Clare were fourth and fifth. Wilson had an eventful day, first getting tangled up in a salt bush when he stopped to help Travis Robinson put out a brake fire, then losing time on the final lap with an engine misfire when on target for a podium. #124 Troy Duff and Daniel Mansfield drove a great race to finish sixth overall and second in Class 1, while #171 James and Zach Lochert rounded out the Class 1 podium in 9th outright. Mildura locals, Robert Plant and Ryan Burr were on the pace early and the sole Class 1 to make Saturday’s top ten shoot out. However they were forced to retire their #128 Southern Cross after 3 laps on Sunday due to a gearbox failure.
Coming on song as the track started to chop up and quickly becoming a crowd favourite as they charged through the whoops, Hayden Bentley and Viv Coe were rewarded with the Class 4 win and 7th outright in the #418 Racer Trophy Truck. With panels flapping after Saturday’s roll in the prologue, Brad Gallard with navigators Brett Lehmann and Dean Keyes was one of the early pacesetters in the #454 Geiser Truck, however power steering issues forced a lengthy pit stop relegating him to second in class. While Darren Mott piloted the #435 Truck to third in class with navigators Tenae Mott and William Beckwith. Greg Gartner and Jamie Jenning were another team to come out swinging in the #410 R&J Batteries truck on Sunday morning after a spectacular roll during the prologue. Blasting their way from 17th on the grid to podium contention over the first two laps. However a broken rear suspension link left them stranded and ended their day at the business end of the race.
Class 10 winners at round 1 at Griffith, Steven and Daryl Graham continued their good form south of the border, taking victory in their #1064 Honda powered Tatum ahead of the #1069 buggy of Jason Munro. Declan Cummins and Patrick Philip came out on top in the competitive 1600cc Class Two category in their A-Arm #210 Lothringer. Trailing them by less than a minute was the #228 Southern Cross of Alistair McClelland and Steve Newick, who had Cummins in their sights for most of the race. South Australia’s #229 Aaron Heemskerk and Jake Douglass rounded out the Class 2 podium in third. In Class 3, Mildura local’s #319 Les O’Grady and Josh Tonkin were the sole survivors and took out the class Sunset Challenge honours.
After almost 400km of racing, less than 30 seconds split the Class 5 tin tops winners Darran Vanderwoude and John Schultz in the #554 Colorado from the Tasmanian based #505 Tacoma of Stephen Watkins and Teagan Roberts. Sea Lake local Bernie Clohesy and Stuart Amos piloted the #570 Triton to third in class. Sandy Bowman and Daniel Hardman bounced back after a tough weekend at Griffith to take the Class 7 Stock 4wd win in the #733 GU Patrol, while the sole Class 8 Super 4wd competitor, Clayton and Amy Chapman were forced to retire early on Sunday morning with driveline problems.
A trio of CanAm Maverick X3’s dominated the Class 6 turbo UTV category, with #647 Scott Tymkin and Matt Dillon coming out on top ahead of #623 Tony Whateley and Doug Carthew and #621 Toby Whateley and Simon Hermann. While #6636 Tim Dewhurst and Shannon O’Neill drove their Polaris RZR 1000XP to the naturally aspirated Class 66 win.
At the conclusion of the 6 lap race, 31 of 72 teams completed the entire race distance with the damp conditions and lack of dust producing some of the closest racing ever seen in the region. The ARB Australian Off Road Racing Series now heads south to Sea Lake in Victoria for round 3 on the Queens Birthday Long Weekend in June.
For full coverage check out Edition 49 of Dirtcomp Magazine- Subscribe here