Glenn Owen and Deon Beattie celebrated the highly anticipated return of Griffith to the Australian Off Road Championship with a win at the MTQ Engine Systems Griffith 700 on the weekend. The victory marked the Victorian teams fifth outright win at the event and also sealed them a rare hat trick after wins in the last two Griffiths in 2004 and 2005. Owen started the race on pole position, but slipped back to 6th in the foggy conditions on the first lap before working his way back through the field. Posting the fastest lap of the race on lap 4, a 53:18.09 and snatching the lead from Shannon Rentsch on lap 6. From there he didn’t look back, taking the MTQ Engine Systems Griffith 700 win in a total time of 7hr 35min 34.48 seconds.
“It was a traditional Griffith track, some fast parts, some rocky areas and quite a few trees to get around so it was an excellent track” said Owen in a post race interview. “It was a huge day at the office, I’m absolutely wrapped with the whole weekend because we have put a lot of hours into the car leading up to the race.”
The reigning Australian champs, Shannon and Ian Rentsch battled hard with Owen and Fellows over the 700km and slipped in to the lead on lap 5. However a longer than anticipated pit stop to repair a broken exhaust saw their slim lead eroded and they were unable to reel Glenn Owen back in on the final few laps. Leaving them to finish second outright in a time of 7:39:33.17.
“It was good to get a finish in the new car and have some time in the seat” said Rentsch
David Fellows and Mark Bergamin relished in the tough conditions on Sunday morning in the Peter Kittle Motorsports Jimco. Racing through the thick fog the South Australians quickly settled into a groove and took the lead on the first lap and went into their mid race pit stop with a 14 second margin over Rentsch. Taking on fresh tyres, grease in the CV’s and a new set of brake pads, Fellows returned to the track in fourth and overhauled Mark Burrows to take third outright at the MTQ Engine Systems Griffith 700.
“We needed the finish we had at Griffith and we preserved the car to get to the finish line and maintain our points lead in the championship.” Said Fellows
The class battles were equally intense as the teams locked horns with the wide range of elements that mother nature presented them. With the thick mist and mud challenging them early, before bull dust took its place later in the day. In Prolite, the Honda powered beam car of Fehlaber was dominating the class and keeping in touch with the outright contenders before a split fuel tank left them stranded on the last lap. Leaving the Watt’s who had been circulating consistently all day in their #101 Jimco to go on and take the class win ahead of #121 Martin and #138 Fehlaber, who was one lap down in third.
The #229 MTQ Lothringer of Adam Barnacoat took the Super 1650 win ahead of Smith’s #202 Alumicraft and Austin’s Toyota powered Bullet. While Barnacoat hovered inside the top twenty outright for most of the 700km, Smith was one of the big movers during the race. Improving from 61st at the end of the first lap to 18th outright when he greeted the chequered flag. The Suzuki powered Sportsman buggy of Josh Golsby-Smith and Scott Collis dominated the 1300cc class, completing 7 laps in a time of 8:51:16.52 to take the class win ahead of fellow NSW competitors #322 Everleigh and #352 Walker.
On the completion of 7 laps of the 87km course just 19 seconds separated the two leading Extreme 2WD’s. With Chris Western greeting the chequered flag first in his #401 Mickey Thompson Rush Truck, ahead of Harrington’s #497 Chevy Protruck. Gavin Mickle rounded out the Extreme 2WD podium in third, after completing the majority of the race with his Turbo 700 locked in 4th gear. Jeff Loader was the quickest of the Performance 2WD’s in his Chev powered Navara. Finishing ahead of Collins #510 Jeep Cherokee and Clohesy’s #570 V8 Triton.
The Production 4WD Class provided some entertaining racing with young gun pilot Clayton Chapman battling with some of the sports legends, Geoff Pickering and Les Siviour who had brought his Patrol out of retirement for the event. In the slippery and foggy conditions Chapman carved up the field and had moved up to 14th outright by the end of the first lap. From this point he didn’t look back, settling into the mid-teens for the remainder of the race to take the class win. Behind him it was almost a flash back to the late ninties with Pickering’s Pajero and Siviour’s Patrol duelling in a close race of their own. At the completion of the race it was Siviour who finished second in class ahead of Pickering in third.
In the Extreme 4WD Class Reg Owen had the early lead before Colin Hunter took control towards the end of the race and sealed the class win in his Goodyear Jeep Grand Cheerokee. Snapping at their heels was Queensland’s Rob Chapman in the Garry Crick Mitsubishi Pajero, who pipped Owen to second place after 7 laps by just 0.38 seconds.
A highlight of the MTQ Engine Systems Griffith 700 was the Performance Metals Longest Leap. With the crowds packing the Blue Dot Speedway, the drivers who entered let their buggies and trucks fly over the specially built man made jump in a bid to win the cash on offer. Matt Hanson proved you didn’t need an A-Arm to be a contender, floating the Super 1650 beam car over 100 feet. While the V8 powered leaps of Crowe, Marson, Gartner and Murfet all put away impressive performances, it was the two twin turbo V6 fuelled attempts, of both Shannon Rentsch and Glenn Owen that sailed the furthest. Locking away leaps of 35 metres or 115 feet to take the win and prizes thanks to Performance Metals.
The Australian Off Road Championship now moves into the business end of the season, with Round 4 in South Australia in September, the Teagle Excavations ARB Pines Enduro. The combination of close racing and an exciting race format makes this event one of the highlights of the season for both competitors and spectators alike. Making Millicent the place to be from September 3rd – 5th.[doptg id=”2″]