The Team


SMU Racing (formerly Start Me Up Racing) has been racing in the Australian Off Road Championship since 2004. The team won the Australian Off Road Championship in 2006 in Super 1650 class and has been competing in Pro Class since 2007.  SMU Racing won the Australian Off Road Championship outright in 2012 including the Series win for Pro buggies and also the Tri Series outright.  Since then the team have had several outright and podium placings over the years.

Driver Matt Hanson
Matt first started in Off Road racing in 1984 navigating for his father Neil in a Verco Hustler.  His first race as driver was in 1988 and he went on to win the Victorian Off Road Championship in Class 1 (now Pro Class) in 1989 in the same Verco Hustler powered by a Datsun 1800cc engine and VW Kombi gearbox.

He continued to compete at club and state level over the years before racing in the Australian Off Road Championship in 2004 in Super 1650 class.

Matt won the Super 1650 Class Australian Championship in 2006 finishing 3 of the 5 races and finishing 1st in class in these races including three top 10 outright placings.

 In 2007 Matt started in Pro Class with a BMW V10 powered Porter.  Drivetrain reliability proved challenging in this vehicle and in 2011 drove the Nissan V6 twin turbo powered Jimco for the first time.

Matt won the Australian Off Road Championship outright in his first full season where he also won the Pro Class and Tri Series outright for 2012.  This gave the team the right to wear AUS #1 for 2013. The team finished third outright in 2013.

Matt is a member of the Victorian Off Road Racing Association,  Portland Dune Buggy Club and the Alice Springs Off Road Club

Navigator Nigel Pendlebury
Nigel has been competing in Off Road since 1978 and has been up the front of the highly competitive Super 1650 class as driver in car #235.  Nigel and Matt once were sparring partners going hammer and tong in Class 2 (1650) back in the day!

Nigel’s love for speed, of which he gets plenty in the SMU Jimco (!), combined with his vast Off Road experience has only added to the cockpit on raceday for SMU Racing.

Nigel joined theta in 2018 an with several race wins under his belt has made a strong contribution all ready.  Between Matt and Nigel they have a combined 78 years off road racing experience!

Good times ahead as the team plans an an out assault for the upcoming season.

Shane Wilson
Shane of Shane Wilson Competition Engines has built Australian Off Road Championship outright and class winning engines on multiple occasions over the last three decades.  He has won in excess of 10 Australian Off Road Championship outright titles including multiple Off Road Champions Shannon Rentsch and David Fellows.

Shane spent considerable time developing the Ford 3.5 litre twin turbo Ecoboost into what is considered one of the fastest and most reliable packages on the National off road circuit today. Shane’s experience ensures that no stone is unturned in the pursuit of excellence and speed for SMU Racing.


Eric Schlifelner
Eric Schlifelner of Eric’s Motorsport Services has been involved in Off Road racing for 16 years and more broadly motorsport for 32 years.  Eric cut his teeth in Touring cars , V8 Supercars and Targa cars before transitioning to Off Road Racing both as competitor and Race car manufacturer, fabrication and race car preparation.  Eric has had success as a driver with the most recent 2019 outright Victorian championship win in his Saber Superlite. A car he designed and built himself. Eric’s Motorsport Service are the designers and fabrication of the Australian made purpose built Saber Off Road Race vehicles.  Eric is the consummate professional when preparing race cars for what some consider to be the harshest form of motorsport in the world.  It is this preparation that SMU Racing is hoping for the 2020 season and beyond that can continue to convert into podium finishes for the team.

Mark Rowlands

Mark has been involved in Off Road racing since 2004 having had much success with Nigel Pendlebury in the hot seat for the majority of this time.  Mark has been round off road now for over 15 years and been to most tracks around Australia.  Mark’s expertise come race time and in the pits is invaluable to the team and as the team has continued it’s successful run, Mark has become an integral member.

Johnny Webster and Ray Nelson

Chairman SMU Racing Neil Hanson – ‘The Godfather’ 

Neil is Matt’s father and cut his teeth in the early 80s driving a Verco Hustler with Matt as Navigator teaching all he knew.  

Neil drove a Verco Hornet before finishing his driving days in a Southern Cross powered by one of the original 20 valve Toyota 1600 engines in Super 1650 class.  Neil has also navigated at a National level with Matt.

Neil unfortunately is no longer with us, but is no doubt looking down and smiling on the SMU team as they race around the nation.


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