Keen Cook ready for Finke

Reigning SXS Pro Champion James Cook is itching to bounce back in the Polaris Motorsport Australia Off Road Championship (AORC) after an uncharacteristic DNF in the Wentworth Shire Pooncarie Desert Dash.

After finishing every race he had started since joining the AORC, his first ever DNF in Pooncarie came as a result of running out of fuel during the second section of the race.

Although it was a big hit to his points in the class standings, it was a big lesson for he and navigator Mitch Aucote with the duo now adding an extra 30 litres of fuel to their SXS buggy.

The result saw the duo drop to third in class and 250 points behind leaders Glenn Brinkman and Dale Moscatt with three rounds remaining, yet with a number of top outright contenders also retiring, they sit second on the outright standings behind Travis Robinson and Andrew Pinto.

Following from the DNF, Cook is hungrier than ever to get back behind the wheel.

“The result was far from ideal to be honest, but Mitch and I are both people who, when we make a decision, we go for it. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out on this occasion,” Cook said.

“We have definitely learned from this mistake, and it certainly gives us more motivation for Finke. In fact, we preferred to run out of fuel at Pooncarie than in Alice Springs because that race is special for us.

“Even though I am still second in the outright standings, I am not overly concerned about the outright points, but it does make you wonder that if we had not run out of fuel, where we would have ended up because we were running about seventh at the time.

“As for the SXS class, I don’t think we’re out of the running at all. Finke is going to be our best chance to get points back and after last year, I have no doubt we can make up those points.

“With that said, we don’t want to do anything silly as finishing Finke is the goal.

“We will always push and keep moving forward but the reality is that our season is pretty much over if we don’t finish, so we want to finish that race with good points.”

Finishing Finke shouldn’t be a problem for Cook, who is no stranger to a good result there having finished third last year.

The Victorian has been one of the standout performers since breaking into the AORC, having picked up the SXS Pro class title in 2022 and a historic outright victory at the Markwell Group Gold City 450 earlier this year.

However, there is one goal that remains at the forefront of Cook’s mind ahead of next week’s Tatts Finke Desert Race.

“We have won the SXS title, and we won an outright championship round – but a class victory at Finke is the ultimate goal,” Cook added.

“We would love to finish Finke and to finish it well. Hopefully that gets us on our way to bring home the second championship – that would mean the world to me.”

The Tatts Finke Desert Race takes place in Alice Springs on 9-12 June.

Photo: Dan Thompson