AORC Insight: High Noon in the West

4 months ago | Words: Peter Whitaker | Photos: John Pearson Media, Clayton Wilkinson

When it comes to the Dakar Rally, Australian Safari, or any two-wheeled assault on the Canning Stock Route, Simpson Desert or other record-breaking desert-crossings or adventure rides around the country, Peter Whitaker is Australia’s foremost authority. And historian. So, a couple of weeks ago, when the 11-round 2019 Yamaha Australian Off-Road Championship (AORC) made its seventh stop at Kyogle, not far from Whitaker’s Tweed Heads home, he made his way inland to Kyogle for a look-see at the world-class riders spearheading the AORC.
As the following weekend snapshot Whitaker sent to Transmoto reveals, he was impressed with what he saw at the AORC – particularly from the two Daniels at the head of the field, who are locked in a titanic battle for supremacy in the series’ coveted Outright title. That is until Whitaker realised the AORC’s organising committee are denying riders and fans alike of any visibility into the AORC’s Outright results. Take it away, Brigadier Whitaker…

As the Yamaha Off-Road Rodeo moves to Broken Hill next week, the seventh round of this year’s AORC championship will feature one of the biggest shootouts in Australian enduro history. The two Daniels – Milner and Sanders – are locked at three-all after Sanders outgunned Milner at Kyogle’s Round 5 and 6 – the latter suffering the after-effects of a shoulder operation, and the former trying to tame the power of his Husqvarna FE501 in some of the most technical sections seen for some time.

Milner, who started the 2019 season on a KTM 350EXC-F, has now optioned up to the more powerful 450cc model – knowing that the sandy wastes south of the Silver City will favour Sanders. Yet, officially, this shootout will never take place. There’s little doubt Dan Milner will notch up another win in the E2 Championship, and Dan Sanders will do the same in the E3 Championship. Any comparison between the current Outright International Six Days Enduro (ISDE) titleholder and his likely successor, however, will not be publicised because they’re racing in different classes.

Haydon Keeley #334. Capture by Clayton Wilkinson

This is despite the fact that, after six rounds of the championships to date, over a total of almost six hours in the saddle – from the dry, dusty escarpment of Murphys Creek to the ruts, rocks and tree roots of Kyogle – these two champions are separated by little more than a single minute on aggregated times. And, for that matter, the four E1 contestants; Luke Styke, Fraser Higlett, Lyndon Snodgrass and Michael Driscoll – all of whom have scored at least one top-five Outright result this season – are only minutes behind the frontrunners. And in a different class again!
Matt Phillips is a bloke who knows more about Championships than most – having been the only rider to win both the Junior World Enduro Championship and backed that up with the outright World Enduro Championship – and he agrees with Motorcycling Australia’s (MA) rationale behind promoting separate championships for E1 (250), E2 (450) and E3 (Open) classes. Matt believes separate titles provide wider opportunities for sponsorship, in spite of the fact Matt’s protégé, Kyron Bacon, has dominated this year’s EJ-class (Under 18) Championship aboard a KTM 250 – even though EJ is an all ‘All Powers’ division.
By all means, MA should promote capacity classes within an overall series, but let’s have one champion at year’s end. And if MA wants to tighten the gap a little between the 250cc machines and the 500s, then simply throw more technical sections at the competitors. Aspiring photographer, 12-year-old Clayton Wilkinson took a few images for Transmoto at Kyogle to demonstrate the style of country that would favour a 250 or even a 125cc two-stroke over a big-bore machine. Let’s have more special tests such as those pictured; where the power of a 500 is nullified by its weight. And let’s all hope that MA has a rethink about the Outright for 2020.

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