The final round of the Australian Off Road Championship held in Queensland on the weekend saw Matt Coleman and Shawn Teagle take victory at the Mitsubishi Electric Lockyer Valley 300 in their Chevy powered #55 Alpha Pro Buggy. The rain on Friday night and on Saturday forced the event organizers, the Brisbane Sporting Car Club, to slash the original 80km track to 16.5km and change the race format to eight laps of the new shorter course to ensure the season decider could take place. The result was an exciting short course flavored grand finale to the championship season.
Starting third on the road, Coleman battled with the Pro buggies of Hanson, Bannan and Prout and the Extreme 4WD Titan of New Zealand’s Raana Horan for the outright lead. But by the half way point the Victorian was out in front and didn’t look back as he threaded the big Alpha through the trees on the way to his first outright AORC victory in a time of 1hr 34min 36.890 sec.
Heading in to the final round of the championship, Matt Hanson and Leigh Wells were on top of the leaderboard and needed a solid finish in the #7 SMU twin turbo V6 Jimco to take the AORC title. With the cars starting at 15 second intervals and little dust due to Saturdays rain, the pace at the front of field was frantic. However Hanson and Wells kept their eyes on the prize, driving their own race to be rewarded with second outright. An effort which allowed them to bank enough points to remain comfortably at the top of the table and secure their maiden Australian Off Road Championship title.
Third outright was Gerald Reid and Aaron Saliba in the #39 Later Engineering V8 Probuggy. Reid started his offroad career in the Super1650 class and debuted in the Pro class this year and he was estatic with his podium finish behind Coleman and Hanson, after coming tantalizingly close earlier this season.
Warialda’s Terry Rose and Shane Egan looked at home on the technical track and kept within striking distance of the leaders in their #11 Jimco. However they were forced to settle with fourth outright, 41 seconds behind Reid.
Chris Western and Stuey Bishop locked in fifth outright and first in the Extreme 2WD Class in their Mickey Thompson Rush truck, after a tense class battle with the iconic #475 Porsche of Greg Campbell who finished second in the Extreme 2WD class.
Michael and Jae Collins put a string of recent DNF’s behind them to realize the potential of their #12 Subaru powered Chenowth, finishing sixth outright just 36 seconds in front of the #105 Jimco of Les Marshall and Glennys Rose. Marshall relished the tight flowing track conditions to take the Prolite class win, ahead of the NSW based crews of #104 Kelvin and Michael Hill and #140 Garry Simpson and Kevin Ottey.
Neville Taylor and Kevin McDonald slotted the Team Taylor #6 twin turbo V6 GET Pro buggy into eighth outright.
Behind Taylor was New Zealand’s Raana Horan and Mike Connor, who once again put the leading Pro buggies on notice in the #899 Big Black Motorsport Titan. Horan was hovering in outright podium contention until a flat rear tyre on second last lap forced the Extreme 4WD pilot into the pits. He returned to the track in time to hold off the #803 Pajero of Clayton Chapman and Adam McGuire by 24 seconds for the Extreme 4WD Class win and ninth outright. Sandy Bowman and Daniel Hardman drew on their Vic high country driving skills to carve up the Lockyer Valley track, until the #833 Chevy powered GQ became stuck in first gear forcing them to settle for third in class.
The UTV Class was a new addition to the AORC Class line up this year and Wayne Murphy and Chris Taylor took the honours of racking up the first victory in the new category in their #666 Snake Racing Polaris RZR XP. The tight conditions mixed with Murphy’s no holds barred driving style, which he has honed on the ARC circuit this year saw them narrowly miss a top ten finish, placing 11th outright and keeping many of their bigger siblings honest in the process. The #688 Snake Polaris of Michael and Darren Smith took second in class, ahead of Andrew and Rhys North from Queensland in the #671 Polaris.
Only a handful of seconds split the Super 1650 combatants during the first half of the race, with Ian Hill and Nathan Thorton in the #204 Hurricane holding off reigning class champ #201 Darryl Smith and David McGrath. However when Smith lost time with a wet engine in the second creek crossing on lap 5, Hill took the ascendancy and raced away to take the class win by 24 minutes.
The Production 4WD Class podium became an all Mitsubishi affair with Rob Chapman and Ross Challacombe taking the class win in the trademark red #703 Triton. Michael and Linda Topfer locked their short wheel based #722 Pajero into second, ahead of Evan Burns and Beth McKay who overcame a gentle rollover at the first creek crossing on lap 6 in their #789 Pajero to finish the race and secure a well deserved third in class.
The #570 V8 Triton of Bernie Clohesy and #522 V8 Rodeo of Scott Gould have gone toe to toe all season in the Performance 2WD class and their close rivalry continued at Mulgowie. After the 8 laps it was Bernie Clohesy and Kim Stacey who made the best of the slippery conditions to take the class win ahead of Scott Gould and Matt Haywood. While local Queensland driver, Paul Youman was lead the Southerners for the first 4 laps of the race which made up the state championship component of the event.
After a day of close wheel to wheel racing which snaked through the foot hills of the Darling Downs, through flowing creeks and along tree lined farm tracks, twenty-seven of the 63 entries completed the eight laps. The event was capped off with a presentation dinner for the event and AORC at the Mulgowie Hotel on Sunday night, where the 2012 Outright and Class Champions were presented their trophies.