AORC VS A4DE VS DESERT RACING
Injuries or racing overseas have meant that you and Toby Price, and you and Daniel Sanders, have not gone head-to-head in the AORC for an entire season for several years. But with Sanders back for 2018, you will be racing a former AORC champion.
That’s right. When I won the AORC in 2013, Toby had the neck injury. Then in 2014, I was leading the AORC after Round 3 until I crashed and busted my ankle while training, and Toby went on to win that one. Then when Price and Daniel Sanders won the AORC in 2015 and 2016, I was racing in America. And last season, Price focused on desert racing and Sanders was racing the World EnduroGP in Europe. So you’re right; there hasn’t been a real showdown of the AORC champ for a few seasons now. Me and Sanders did get to race each other at the 2015 and 2016 Aussie 4-Day Enduro, where I got the better of him. Twice [laughs]!
In 2013, you were the first guy to win the AORC Outright title on a 250. Last year, you were the first to clean-sweep the AORC series. But what would a third Outright AORC title mean for you in 2018?
I actually think it would mean more to me than the first two. Matching AJ Roberts and Toby Price – who are the only guys to win three Outrights at the AORC – would be pretty cool. Plus, it would mean a lot to win with Daniel Sanders back. In fact, there’s been a lot of smack-talk ahead of the season, so that’s always a motivating force for me. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about the ‘triple crown’ – being the first guy to win the E1, E2 and E3 classes at the AORC.
Who’s the smack-talk coming from?
Y’know, same as always [laughs]; you hear stuff around the traps and see it on social media. Seriously though, there are a lot of fast guys, and a lot of guys who are getting faster. It’s going to be a really fun and competitive year. I like the challenge, and I like the fact that KTM is paying me to win, not just to race up near the front.
How do you compare your four A4DE titles with your AORC successes?
They’re two different events and special for different reasons. I am really looking forward to racing the 40thanniversary of the 4-Day back at its birthplace of Cessnock in April. I think that’s shaping up to be a special event. When Mathias Bellino beat me for the 4-Day’s Outright win in 2016 at Mansfield, that put an end to any chance of me equaling Shane Watts’ five A4DE wins in the trot, but I can still match – and hopefully better – Wattsy’s record of six 4-Day wins. That one’s been in my sights for a while. I kinda like records [laughs].
And how did last year’s Hattah Desert Race win rate?
It was my first Hattah win, so it rates right up there for sure. I hadn’t raced Hattah since 2012 because my Yamaha team didn’t include Hattah in their program due to the injury risk. When I joined KTM last year, I knew they were big on desert racing, and I knew they had the best bikes on the market for races such as Hattah and Finke.
Finke is a very different animal; a specialist type of race. So is that on your radar?
Last year, I went out there to check it out and rode up and back to Finke. I really like the whole idea of it – the speeds and the style of the race – because I grew up doing a lot of pig hunting in the Outback and riding very similar terrain. That said, when I pre-ran the track, it wasn’t at race pace. It’s a huge event in Australia and I’d really like to race it. Unfortunately, KTM had already signed two riders for this year’s Finke – Toby Price and David Walsh –who both know pretty much every bump on that track. I’d definitely like to do it some day, but I realise it’d take a big effort to get up to speed and not get my arse kicked.