Off-Road Racing Season Blasts Off
One hundred race teams are converging on the NSW Riverina region with the opening salvo of the 2017 off-road racing season set to fire this weekend.
Seventy kilometres north of the leafy fine wine and food destination of Griffith, Australia’s toughest unsealed sprinters will grid-up at the Stackpoole 400. Coming in hot, teams have their 2017 race rigs ready to roost red dust and battle for the first big game of the year.
Team Toyo is ready to race.
Representing on the invincible Toyo Tires Open Country M/T-R (the ‘R’ is for race) is reigning Stackpoole 400 champ Danny Brown and long-time navigator George Apted. Third in 2014 and 2015 and the winner in 2016, Brown will hunt a consecutive top podium step with his 950-horsepower twin-turbo Jimco.
Also running Open Country M/T-R, Danny’s father Andy Brown and navigator Mark Sedran will seek to improve on a disappointing 2016 at Stackpoole where a broken upright on the V8-pedalled Saber buggy caused the pair to miss the chance to follow up a blistering prologue performance.
Always a force to be reckoned with, Andy will be out to teach Danny a thing or two about experience.
Fourth in class at the Parker 425 in the US last month, the younger Brown might just have the seat time and track knowledge to back up his 2016 win.
Stackpoole is so entrenched in off-road racing it is named after the winners of the first race, Bernie Stack and Keith Poole who took outright honours at the first race in the 1970s.
Previously running through the hills, with overgrown grass presenting a fire hazard to flame-throwing off-road race cars, has seen a track relocation to the hills’ edges around fence lines and on paddocks.
What does this mean for drivers? High speed, high intensity and extreme mechanical stress.
“It is going to be super-fast. It’s a high average speed, higher than we’ve raced at before,” Danny said. “We are up against some really good cars and really fast guys. The race will be hugely demanding on engines and tyres.
“It’s not going to be rough but the heat stress will be huge because of the constant speed. When we’re flat out and the car’s doing 225km/h, our rear wheels are doing 270km/h. That wheel slip makes tyres super-hot and will destroy the wrong rubber.
“That’s the advantage of running on the Toyos. We can run at those speeds all day and not pit. The tyres we are running will do the whole race weekend, and they have already done Millicent and were on the car when we won at Goondiwindi.”
With 19psi force fed into the 3.5-litre Nissan V6 powering his proven Jimco Aussie Special, Danny’s #42 is built to last.
“In the sport there has been a lot more R&D in engines. More and more people are coming to the track with more horsepower and getting longevity and reliability out of the motors.
“Our chassis is really good. It’s set-up hard like a rally car and handles fast high-speed corners. This weekend will be red dust, long farm paddock straights, some rocky sections but overall a smooth race.”
With a championship in mind Danny and George are not making the trip to Stackpoole for photo opportunities.
“We won it last year and we want to back it up. We are chasing the championship, so we will do as many of the six rounds as we can. In this series it’s anyone’s game; it’s about reliability and finishing events. We want to go to races and win them overall, and win championships.”
Danny expects his father to be a major threat as well.
“Dad’s fast as hell, and has won a few prologues here. Prologue is critical for dust. In my opinion, the person who wins will be in the top four in prologue. It’s going to be hard to catch and pass in the dust.”
Mat Ryan, Stackpoole property owner and Griffith Off Road Club representative, said his property is awash with bunting and the club is excited to have topped 100 entries.
“The track is looking fast and hard-packed due to the recent run of dry weather, and the forecast for the weekend at this point looks to be warm and sunny which will make for excellent race conditions.”
As always, when the flag drops the talk will stop. With $3500 in prizes up for grabs and the first bell of 2017 yet to be rung, it’s going to be savage out there.
2017 ARB AUSTRALIAN OFF-ROAD RACING SERIES
March 17-19 - Stackpoole 400 – Griffith, NSW
April 21-23 - Sunraysia 400 – Mildura, NSW
June 9-11 – Mallee Rally 450 – Sea Lake, Victoria
July 21-23 – Riverland Enduro – Waikerie, South Australia
August 18-20 - Goondiwindi 400 - Goondiwindi, Queensland
September 22-23 – Pines Enduro 400 – Millicent, South Australia
2017 CAMS AUSTRALIAN OFF-ROAD CHAMPIONSHIP
April 23-30 – St George 399 – St George, Queensland
June 9-11 – The Finke – Alice Springs, Northern Territory
August 4-6 – Rainbow Desert Enduro – Rainbow, Victoria