The AORC’s ‘Silver City’ Desert Enduro

3 months ago | Words: Andy Wigan | Photos: John Pearson Media

Last year, the Yamaha Australian Off-Road Championship (AORC) broadened its horizons, literally, by adding an Outback desert race to the series, staged some 60km south of the ‘Silver City’ township of Broken Hill on the border of NSW and South Oz. And it’s back on the 2019 AORC calendar, as Round 7 of the prestigious national series.

But what exactly is this new event? Where’d it come from? Who’s running it? What’s the course like? Will your bike need to be modified to race it? And, aside from the AORC regulars who’ll race on Sunday, does the weekend cater to other amateur riders and/or spectators? We fired a bunch of questions at the bloke promoting the event, Dirt2Ride Events’ Lyndon Heffernan, to get a better handle on the latest addition to Australia’s desert racing scene.

TM: Lyndon, you’ve run state and national MX events, the A4DE, and played a key role in Transmoto’s Enduro Events. But running a desert race has always been an ambition for you, right?
LH: It has long been a dream of mine to create my own ‘bucket list’ event. And after riding the iconic Finke and Hattah Desert Races, I knew it had to be a desert race. After meeting the awesome crew from Silver City MCC, who had similar aspirations, the hunt for a great location was on. The Langwell Station become an option – a 110,00-acre sheep station situated 60km south of the iconic NSW Outback township of Broken Hill. After a quick trip and a day of riding around the place, I knew it offered the access, variety of conditions and the perfect venue to create a two-day event in picturesque, rugged terrain that every dirt bike rider will want to have a crack at. The crew from the AORC’s organising committee then approached me about incorporating the event into the prestigious national series last season, which is what we did.

Unlike all other AORC weekends, which include two rounds of the series, this Broken Hill event is a one-round only affair. Is that so the event can also cater to other, amateur riders on the Saturday?
The event caters to a range of Junior classes, to a Pony Express teams race on Saturday, and to Senior capacity and veteran classes on Sunday, so we’ve made sure there’s something for everyone. It’s all about mates riding with and racing their mates, and enjoying the spirit.

How was the inaugural event in 2018 received? Is it possible to run an event that caters to both Pros and punters?
In inaugural event in 2018 was great for a first-time event, considering we were in a desert in the middle of a terrible drought! It got rough towards the end of the three-hour Pro race, especially in the riverbed – which everyone really loved, and which we will use more of in 2019. 

Any change to the racing formats or race schedule for 2019?
Not really. We really want to cater for amateurs, like the Transmoto events do. We have changed the course for 2019 to use more of the sandy riverbed sections. Even last year, we listened to the feedback from riders on Saturday afternoon and changed a section that got really dusty when the Juniors raced it on it.

Desert Races are a long way from the major centres. Do you think it is worth the trip to Broken Hill?
Yes, of course! Logistically, it is way closer than Finke and/or Hattah for most NSW and Queensland riders. It is actually pretty central for those who live in a lot of east coast riding regions. We are trying to keep it affordable by camping at the track, and good value by offering up a good, long, hard ride. As it is a loop-style track like Hattah with varied distances for each class (see supp regs for full details), and not a point-to-point like Finke, the logistics are easy. Crews stay in one spot all weekend and no special equipment is needed. We want it to be a fun and easy-to-be-at, and still dish up an awesome desert riding experience – without the cost and logistical challenges usually associated with desert races.

Do I need to set my bike up for this race?
No special set-up is required for the bike. Being a loop event, you can pit every 35 to 40 minutes. You will need slightly taller gearing and some soft-terrain tyres and good tubes. Like most high-speed events, a steering damper would be a good addition. And getting your clickers set right would help the bike work better on the whoops.

How much taller does the bike’s gearing need to be?
It has a similar overall speed to Hattah, in that there is a few 300- to 400-metre sections where you can be tapped in top gear – at least, until it gets rough! In terms of gearing, I’d start with three to four teeth down from stock on rear sprocket. That will raise the top speed plenty and it’ll lengthen the wheelbase for added stability at speed. Or you could just go up one or two teeth (if it will fit) on the front countershaft sprocket as a cheaper option.

Can I race if I don’t have an MA Licence?
Yes, we can issue you one at sign on for $80. But you need to be a member of a club before you come. See Motorcycling NSW for club details.

Can I ride Pony Express class with my mate on Saturday and do Ironman on Sunday?
Nothing’s stopping you. Except energy! But it will be pretty tough.

Can Juniors ride 85cc on Saturday and 125 or 250 on Sunday?
Sure. That’s assuming you are the right age and still small enough to ride an 85, and strong enough to swing off a full- size bike on Sunday.

How far out of Broken Hill is the track?
It is 60km south of Broken Hill and about 35 minutes’ drive. The venue is right next to the Silver City Highway, so it’s easy to find.

What facilities are available in Broken Hill?
Everything except surf and green grass! It is a big town with everything you need and great food and accommodation. There’s only one bike shop, but it’s a pretty good one.

Is there camping at the track?
Yep. Friday and Saturday night, camping is permitted. If camping is not your thing, then town is not far and there are plenty of good accommodation options in Broken Hill.

Are spectators welcome?
Yes. It is $5 for adults and free for under 16 years. There is a gold coin donation to the parking attendants, who are a local charity as well. There will be good viewing of the start and the first section of the track.

When do entries open and what do entries cost?
They’re already open, so get on it. To enter, simply click this link: https://www.aorc.org.au/round-7-broken-hill-nsw/
In terms of entry fees, a Pony Express team entry is $300, while E1/E2/E3, Masters, Vets and Women’s class are all $250. For Juniors, EJ-class fees are $250, while J2/J3/J4 is $150.

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