Glenn Owen and Matthew Ryan have added the jewel in the crown of the Australian Off Road Championship to their trophy cabinet, winning the Tatts Finke Desert Race held in Alice Springs over the weekend. Finishing second back in 1995, Owen went one better 21 years later, taking his maiden “King of the Desert” title after 6 attempts in the #30 twin turbo V6 Jimco Pro Buggy.
Qualifying fifth during Saturday’s prologue, Owen pushed his suspension to the limits on the famous red centre whoops to post the quickest time on the 226km leg south to Finke, 1hr 50min 12sec, ahead of #413 Beau Robinson and #21 Mark Burrows, who was making his 20th start in the race. Early leader #91 Jack Rhodes and reigning Finke champion, #1 Shannon Rentsch both lost time getting into Finke with steering issues, while AORC round 1 winner Macca Kittle was out of the race after the #23 Jimco suffered major fire damage.
After spending Sunday night under the stars at Finke, Owen withstood an early charge by Robinson to greet the chequered flag in an overall time of 3hours 37min 02sec.
“It’s unbelievable, we’ve wanted this win for a long time and finally had a car fresh enough to come up here and have a proper crack at it and it has paid off. The Fox Shocks did an amazing job and it is incredible the punishment the car can take and it was a sensational run down and back. This is always going to be the feather in the crown, Finke is the race to win in Australia and it is fantastic to come and knock it off the list.” Said Glenn Owen
The battle for the remaining two spots on the podium went down to the wire, with #413 Beau Robinson, #21 Mark Burrows, #454 Brad Gallard, #487 Toby Price and #410 Greg Gartner all in contention during the return leg back to Alice Springs on Monday morning. Starting just 23 seconds behind Owen, Robinson pushed the Geiser Bros Trophy Truck hard through the dust and closed within 3 seconds of him at Mt Squires. Owen then hit back towards Bundooma, extending his lead and leaving Robinson to push through the dust. However a broken rim on the #413 Geiser Bros Truck, 80k out of Alice forced a tyre change allowing Mark Burrows to slip into second ahead of Robinson and Price, who had moved up to fourth after Gallard retired with a broken rear suspension link, to close the gap on Robinson.
Burrows soon exited the race after rolling near Deep Well, leaving the trucks of Robinson and Price to go toe to toe in the closing stages. Price driving the #487 ARB Geiser Bros Truck made his move at the 40k sand dune, running alongside then passing Robinson to cross the Alice Springs finishline in second outright and first in the Extreme 2wd Class with navigator, Kyle Pfitzner in an overall time of 3:45:40.
It hadn’t been all smooth sailing for Toby Price. A powerhouse on two wheels with four Finke wins and the 2016 Dakar title, Price had signed on for double duty at Finke in 2016, entering both the Auto and Moto divisions. A huge rollover in the #487 Geiser Bros Trophy Truck during practice on Friday looked like sidetracking his Ironman campaign before it started, however the crew pulled out all stops to repair it for Saturday mornings prologue. Finishing second in the auto division, Price capped off his Finke Ironman campaign with a comprehensive win in the Moto division. Aboard the #1 KTM 500 EXC, Price completed the 2 day distance of 452 kilometres in a total time of 3 hours 46 minutes and 55 seconds.
Entering the arena hot on Price’s heels were the West Australian team of Beau Robinson and Stephen Ketteridge-Hall in the #413 BF Goodrich OBR Geiser Brothers Trophy Truck Chev 6000cc. After battling hard, the OBR crew were forced to settle for third outright and second in Extreme 2wd with a total event time of 3 hours 45 minutes and 59 seconds.
Greg Gartner and Jamie Jennings powered the R&J Batteries #410 Ford F150 truck into fourth outright, posting the second quickest return run from Finke to Alice Springs in the process. Rewarding the South Australian team with 3rd in the Extreme 2WD Class. Travis Robinson and Paul Currie recovered from a roll over during Saturday’s prologue, then muscled their way to the finish line with a broken steering pump to take fifth outright (2nd in ProBuggy Class) in the #13 BFGoodrich OBR Jimco, ahead of Hayden Bentley in sixth outright (3rd in ProBuggy Class), who bought his 2013 winning #18 Racer ProBuggy out of retirement for the event.
Rounding out the top ten was the #401 Jaws Racing Jimco Extreme 2wd of Steven Sanderson and Tahlia O’Cass in 7th, the #61 Offroad Rush Element Probuggy of Chris Western and Stuey Bishop in 8th, #57 Element Probuggy of Aaron Haby and Wayne Tabe in ninth and the #91 Rhodes Racing Jimco Probuggy of Jack Rhodes and David Pullino in tenth.
Sam Barnes with navigators Grant Bowden and Peter Barnes dominated the Prolite Class in their #179 Krakka Koldee Nissan V6 powered RV2 buggy. While Dale Martin and Adrian Rowe had the upper hand on day one in their #103 Martin Motorsport Tatum over the #120 Watt The? Jimco of Justin Watt and David Hartwig. The tables were turned on Day 2 with Watt/Hartwig powering home into second in class ahead of the #103 Victorian based team.
A similar story unfolded amongst the Super 1650’s with local ace’s Craig Prettlejohn and Richie Hayes unchallenged at the front of the class in the #223 AHI Razorback. While Werner and Sue Zettl, competing in their first Finke in over 10 years, wound up the wick on the return leg in the #232 Jarvi to take second, relegating the father and son team of Graham and Bodie Tickner driving the#233 Tickner Motorsports Buggy into third in class.
Darren Vanderwoude and John Schultz made a successful Finke debut in their #554 Dutch Courage Racing Colorado, locking in the Performance 2WD Class win. Keeping the #504 Steelware Offroad Ford of Dan Osinski and Joseph Butterworth at bay in second, while the #532 Commodore driven by Mark Bleuel and Carl Faranda were third in class, 1hour 31 min behind Osinski.
In his thirteenth Finke, Geoff Pickering and Dylan Watson looked set to continue their class winning form in the Production 4wd category, leading the class into the overnight bivouac at Finke. However an engine failure on day two ended Pickering’s run, leaving AORC Round 1 class winners, Amy Chapman and Lincoln Staude to comfortably win the category in their #702 GQ Nissan Patrol. Toby Hagon and Bernie Webb navigated their #650 Wheels Mazda BT-50, fresh from the showroom into second in class. While Ben Nixon and Tom Margitich rounded out the Production 4WD podium in their 768 GQ Patrol.
Amongst the Extreme 4WD’s, Kent Battle and Heath Lawson put in the hard yards on day one to open up a big lead in their #883 Nortrans Patrol. On the return leg Steve Riley and Trevor Hanks raced wheel to wheel with the Nortrans Patrol for road position in the #807 SMS VF Holden Ute, but were forced to settle for 2nd in class, ahead of Steve Kildey and Chris Jones in the #812 Killa Custom Cables Silverado in third.
Can-Am went one, two, three in the new Superlite B Class for turbo UTV’s. Two time bike winner Phil Lovett, with navigator Allan Samuels added another Finke milestone to the history books with the class win in his #666 CanAm Maverick in a time of 5:34:01. Jeff McNiven and Frank Waite were second in the #673 CanAm Maverick Turbo, while #651 Mick Crossland and Greg Campbell round out the podium. #698 Peter Carr and Matthew Wyndham led the fleet of Polaris RZR 1000’s home with a comfortable win in the Superlite A category for naturally aspirated UTV’s. #612 Andrew Crammond and Stuart Glover were second and Jason Neate and Curtis Smith were third.
64 of the original 127 entrants completed the entire 452km race from Alice Springs to the Apatule Community at Finke and back. The Australian Off Road Championship now heads to the South Australian Riverland for the third and final round of the 2016 season. With six different drivers standing on the podium at the first two rounds, the turf is primed for an epic battle when the drivers return to the track on the 22-24 of July. For more information visit www.aorc.com.au