SMU Racing went to the 40th anniversary Teagle Excavations ARB Pines Enduro in the hope of adding some trophies from this milestone race. Since the arrival of the new SMU Jimco in 2011 the team has a proud record at this race and it was a highly anticipated race for the team given the promising signs shown this year.
Prologue started well with a 4th in the slippery conditions. The Heats which were run well and had the large crowd entertained as a result of good close racing and, despite having the trusty turning brake off in the drivers hand half way round(!), we were able to manage a second overall behind Danny Brown and post the quickest lap for the Heats.
Sunday was a follow on from Saturdays weather with four seasons continuing to present in one day. Starting from the fourth last row on the grid the race got underway and was manic from the get go. Despite spinning twice on the first lap the team were well placed after Lap one passing 39 of the 65 odd cars and posting the quickest first lap. Difficult conditions due to weather and short gap intervals between cars meant that the racing was fairly willing and many bunches of cars racing together. One small issue was that our radiator got completely covered in with mud which caused some increases in engine temperature – nothing the navigator couldn’t shovel off with his spare hand!
The team were in front of Rana Horan 2min 31secs at the end of Heat 1 and after some near perfect driving conditions increased this lead to 7mins 6 secs in front of Tyler Owen at the end of Heat 2. Car was perfect, the Shane Wilson Competition Engine Ford Ecoboost was running faultlessly, the Mickey Thompsons 100% doing their job, Albins transmission not missing a beat as per usual and the HJC Helmets keeping the drivers heads safe and cool in trying conditions – visibility no issues.
With 35kms to go on Lap 5 the SMU Jimco lost power steering. This was like the Millennium Falcon losing its hyperdrive engine! The team decided to continue on to see if they could get the car home. Good decision as little known to the crew the back of the car was on fire with the power steering fluid going up in flames! Luckily the well insulated Pines mud did its job ensuring no damage was done to the SMU Jimco. Two tonne of car and deep ruts on every corner was providing bone crushing feedback through the steering wheel and had the team using up every inch of track and some to keep the car in a straight line coming home. Speeds were reduced to cope with this and obviously not come into trees (many near misses) and other cars which was difficult.
We headed into the last lap hopeful of being able to finish but knowing that Tyler Owen would at some stage soon be bearing down on us. We got to the road home section before he put the blinker on but we knew he had to put 36 seconds on us to win. As we were heading home the heavens opened, and we thought / hoped (!) this may slow Tyler down. We were still in third gear down the straights as the car was impossible to keep in a straight line. Coming into the arena we could see the car in front and doing our best to get there but the drivers arm were starting to show massive signs of not co operating!
SMU Racing crossed the line thinking we had not done enough. We were right – the final margin five seconds over close to 500kms! Great ending for the crowd, a massive congratulations to Tyler Owen and his team for the overall win – a huge result. As they say that is Off Road Racing!
Congratulations to Danny Brown and George Apted for winning the Series Championship – very deserving and a great team and great blokes! To all the Class champions a big well done also as it doesn’t matter what class you are in, they are always hard to win and a big achievement.
A big thanks to the team on the day in the pits as well as Leigh Wells who jumped back in the navigators seat for this race – hopefully the demons from 2015 are now exorcised for you as well!!!!!
Thanks to Steve Chapple Photography and Turn 8 Photography for the shots as well as the awesome video footage shot by Michael Hurren and Randall Kilner and their crew – great footage!
Side note on what we think is now becoming a bigger issue facing the sport is the rocks that the cars are spitting out the back. Second year running we have received a large rock into the cabin from a vehicle in front and we hear that this happens a lot. Nobody’s fault – it does happen a bit though. Last year we got one that the driver managed to deflect with a hand (injured hand as a result) and this year the driver copped a large rock to the chest. We will be wearing chest plates going forward – we think this is the best way of dealing with this issue given any mesh screens we think would fill with mud and decrease vision even further.
That is the end of the racing season for the SMU Racing team. A promising and enjoyable year.
A big thank you to SMU Racing sponsors and partners who without their help we could not go racing:
Shane Wilson Competition Engines
Mickey Thompson Tyres
Dynamic Wheels and Tyres
And lastly to the team Tim Collard, Shane Wilson and Johnny Webster thank you for the year and support and some good times ahead in 2018!
See you at the track next year!