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12 Hour Event 2011 Print E-mail
Friday, 05 August 2011 09:34
Every year around late July there is a certain air of excitement at Real Balls headquarters as the team awaits their annual journey to the great “Red Centre” for the Sporties 12 Hour Enduro.

So as in previous years Jodie and I jumped aboard the flying red kangaroo and made the quick trip to receive the typical Alice Springs hospitality – awesome. After picking up our ride from L & M Autos we spent the next 24 hours catching up with our friends, co-hosting the morning Breakky show with Locky on Sun FM and preparing for the Friday night scrutiny in the Todd Mall.

Based around the famous Sporties Cafe and Restaurant, over 80 cars and bikes rumbled through the mall and remained on display for the public; eager to view. The atmosphere was great with all the colour and noise of the off road teams and crews and Jodie hosting the evening; entertaining and informing onlookers about the challenge ahead.

Saturday - and after sitting in on the local sports show on Radio 8HA - we headed out along the Old Ghan rail line to the Mt Ooraminna off-road circuit, situated on Orange Creek Station, home of the Alice Springs Off Road Race Club.

It always amazes Jodie and I when we arrive each year, the improvements at this fantastic complex. This year a tonne of work was carried out with new pit sheds and a redesigned spectator area allowing both the car and bike race to be viewed from one central spot with all inclusive shade, food, drinks and commentary.

Saturday afternoon and the story starts. The Sporties 12 Hour Enduro is like no other event in the country. Each year we come away from Orange Creek Station saying “you could write a book about that race, and a hard cover at that,” 2011 was no exception.

All fourteen teams were busily fine tuning their machines on the unique practice track, before the twilight qualifying run. The drama started with the (#499) Extreme 2WD of Travis Betineschi and Mark Sloan getting a little hot under the collar with a fire in the engine bay, ending their weekend in a flash. It was not long after that the (#721) Subaru Brumby was on its lid, sending Jim and James Napier to the casualty list and out for the weekend, they were fine but the car not so. This forced the remaining crews of each respective team to join making thirteen teams for the 12 Hour.

Andrew Mowles found some oil on the floor of his pits and decided to run back to town to fix the leaking rear engine seal, returning Sunday morning to face a green.  The Pinto crew also took advantage of their workshops’ close proximity, taking the car back to Alice for some adjustments.

One of our favourite parts of this weekend is Saturday night. Whilst enjoying a home cooked meal around the warm open fire at Baldy’s Bar and Grill (the on-course bar and grill...serious!), motorsport enthusiasts can enjoy the sweet sounds of off-road machines testing their light configurations for the race ahead, well into the night. There is something about lying in your swag or camper trailer and listening to a 600kw race car blast about the desert, which makes me smile even while writing this story…, gees I love this race!

Sunday morning and the Racing Gods surrounded us with a perfect crisp morning. No time was wasted, Bob Baldock overseeing the shotgun start with both bikes and cars launching a huge days racing. With the times of both cars in each team combined to decide the starting order, it was the (#69) GD McGee’s Jimco Pro Buggy of Paul Gilbert and Jol Pritchard that broke the desert silence at 8am on the dot. One by one the 13 teams were unleashed while their team mates looked on.

It was in the first lap that the attrition rate started; straight off the back of success at Baroota, the (#384) Sportsman Buggy of Grant Ballentine and Richard Hawkins would park up early with a broken gearbox. This lovable team had paired up with the “Fugly buggy” of Rick Schembri and Peter Toyne (#50) Pro buggy - called Fugly for obvious reasons.  This team continued on with both drivers and navigators taking turns in keeping their race alive, aptly named “Loose Screws” as several work at the local correctional facility. It can’t go without saying; they eventually finished the race in 10th place having completed 20 laps in the allocated time 19 of which were done by “Fugly”, more laps than any individual car on the day.

Cars started to do scheduled pit stops from lap 2, mixing the order down the field all chasing the leaders ‘Last Minute Racing”. This is what makes this race a beauty. To explain the mix of events that unfolded in the first 6 hours would take a day in itself, but teams were facing the mechanical issues up and down the field.

The first few hours were a frenzy of speed. Team “Last Minute Racing” was always a threat for the crown with the combination of Gilbert/Pritchard and young guns Jack Rhodes and Jesse Peach in the (#119) Exact Mining Prolite Chenoweth. Gilbert clocked at 193km/h down Conrod Straight, sending the message to other teams that they were here for the big bucks; leading the way for the first twelve laps. Laying down the fastest lap of the day wasn’t enough for the team both out of the race at the 6 hour mark, retiring the team while in the lead, a cruel blow for the hard chargers.

Andrew Pinto and Hamish Wait in the (#5) GGS Jimco Pro Buggy were teamed with local tin top stars Steven Jentsch and Brendon Foley in the lightning quick (#421) S & K Plumbing Extreme 2WD. This team had sight of the lead from the start with Pinto going lap for lap with leaders Gilbert/Pritchard. Pinto was one of the first to pit and hand over the baton to Jentsch but the second place position was short lived as the #421 Extreme 2wd tipped over in front of the crowd, forcing the #5 Jimco back out on track, a little down the order but a long way to go. Andrew laid down some great times throughout the day, getting some valued seat time in the car and wound up completing 25 laps in the dark finishing 4th outright.

Siblings Andrew and Matthew Kittle in (#14) Peter Kittle Motorsport Jimco Pro Buggy were suffering an electrical gremlin, keeping team mates Andrew Mowles and James Madden, both sharing the drive in the potent (#135) Alice Hosetech Pro Lite Razorback, busy circulating the 43 kilometre circuit. This team would name themselves Hell Men, and a hell of a day they had with the Kittle team eventually isolating the problem and the team fought hard all day with good drives by all to finish 5th outright come days end completing 25 laps.

Wayne Cullenane/Danny Bartels in (#470) Sporties Extreme 2wd wouldn’t play, so it was up to Jason and Jane Adami in (#70) Sporties Porter Pro Buggy to fly the flag for “All Good Bruz Racing”. With both cars in the pits at the same time, laps were ticking away, but showing strength and speed when racing, with Wayne and Jason sharing the wheel, to bring the team home in 7th place having done 23 laps.

Team “OBR can party” consisting of Travis Robinson/Paul Currie in (#13) OBR Jimco Pro Buggy and Gemma/Lucinda Owen in the (#244) L & M Autos Southern Cross Super 1650 started from position 6 in the early morning with the #13 Jimco showing good speed to be placed 3rd at one stage. Unfortunately the engine expired in the black Pro Buggy leaving the responsibility to Gemma and Lucinda to put down 10 fast laps combining 19 in total placing them in 11 place at the end of the 12 hours.

To qualify as a finisher, a team must complete at least 70% of the race distance. Despite a valiant effort James Cook/Bill Montgomery in (#41) Pro Buggy completed the majority of the laps alone with team mate (#445) Haden and Wayne Foley unable to keep the red truck alive. Completing only 15 laps missed the cut off for this likeable team.

The black Falcon Ute (#505) of Rod Berry /Loretta Donaldson combined with newcomers Mitchell Clark/Mark Phillips steering the (#211) desert machine. They kept the dream alive all day, with 20 laps under their belt a deserving 9th place was the reward. A top ten result for the low budget team showing you don’t need to sell the house to enjoy the 12 hour.

Sinopec Racing were consistent for the 12 hours finishing 8th outright on 22 laps. Northern Territory Shadow Minister for Sport and Minister for Drysdale  Ross Bolin in the (#523) Performance 2wd fought well with Craig Meekings/Shane Tenace in the zippy (#217) Super 1650. Ross stating at trophy presentation what a great event the 12 hour is for not only the sport itself but the Northern Territory as a whole.

The Dirt Turners certainly did that at the 12 hour. Anthony Coulthard/Robert Dunlop in the immaculate (#433) Orange Creek Station Extreme 2wd had a good strategy that paid off with the consistent Axle Greening/Tim Coach driving the (#268) Johnnos Camper Trailers Super 1650. The pair stuck to the plan and were happy with 6th place outright on 24 laps.

As the red centre swallowed the setting sun it was down to three teams in a position to take the $5000 winners cheque.
With 2 hours to go, the race to line was going to be a cracker.

Always fast Locky and Paddy Weir in their neat as a pin (#155) Pro Lite machine, went to the fight with partners Angus McKay/Owen Auricht in their (#282) Super 1650 named WFO Racing. A great story with the team at the heals of much fancied teams all day and stood proud on the podium under the desert night sky with a creditable 3rd placing having raced 26 laps in a time of 11 hours 50 minutes and 16 seconds. The quiet achievers of the day, punching well above their weight.

With an hour to go there was not a breath of wind to clear the now dusty track, creating further challenges with the huge lights upon the desert racers now more a hindrance then help, many teams running on low beam in the dusty darkness, more representing a heavy evening fog.

On track, the last half hour and we still did not know who was to win, one thing for sure it was now down to two teams.

Team “No Carbon Tax” , the local stable of Bernard and Joshua Gwynne driving (#440) Stuart Caravan Cabin Park Extreme 2wd and Brett Taylor/Dylon Blake in the (#31) BKT Aceco Pro Buggy left all challenges at arms length to be in a winning position come night fall. The (#31) machine was overheating for most of the day, keeping the Bright red machine on track for the majority and calling in Co navigators Mark Neverov and Neil Hinds to bring the ecstatic crews home in 2nd place overall, running 26 laps in a time of 11 hours 32 minutes and 25 seconds. Team manager Rob Gwynne stating the Gwynne Truck now has a third and second at the 12 hour and vow to return next year to claim the title.

Leaving only one team to bring it home it was the aptly named “Desert Storm “ team that were able to strike the lap board the most with a total of 27 laps in a total time of 11 hours, 53 minutes and 31 seconds.
The pairing of Beau Robinson/Adam Trewhalla in the bright yellow (#85) OBR Jimco with Anthony Kuhn/Chris Coulthard in the ever present (#404) Extreme 2wd were contenders from the get go starting the day from position three. The (#85) machine caused a scare early in the day with CV issues, but swift work by Crew chief “Muz” Hodson had the team at ease with his swift action while both Khun and Coultard took turns at attacking the desert in the black and green machine. The Queenslander Khun making the long haul worth it taking their first win in the Aussie built Trophy Truck. Equally traveled  Western Australian’s Robinson and Trewhalla were over the desert moon with the top spot on the podium, having many DNF’s for the professional outfit in recent times. Both drivers from different corners of the country claiming the 12 hour as a fantastic weekend and all promise to return.

Believe it not I’ve tried to condense this 2258 word story as much as I can, but how can you, when there is so much to say about the event as a whole. Id like to congratulate the Alice Springs Off Road Club for striving to make the Sporties 12 Hour Enduro one of the “must do “ races on the Australian Off-road scene. Your complex, the race , the whole weekend is like no other. Jodie and I would like to thank Sporties Café and Restaurant, Stuart Caravan and Cabin Park, L & M Autos and Johnno’s Camper Trailers for making our time in Alice a memorable one and have us counting the 350 odd sleeps till we return to the 12 hour.

Always sideways
Rusty Bell
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