Last time out at the Pooncarie Desert Dash

The last time the BFGoodrich Motorsport Australia Off Road Championship (AORC) ventured to the picturesque town of Pooncarie, it was a memorable weekend for many reasons.

From a first-time winner to a dramatic final section – there were many talking points from last year’s event.

Ahead of this weekend’s 2024 season opener, we look back at the last time we were at the Wentworth Shire Pooncarie Desert Dash.

Photos: Dan Thompson Photography

Multiple-time race winner Josh Howells couldn’t have asked for a better start to kick off the event – securing the Prologue win over the 50 entered crews alongside navigator Gordon Tardrew.

The win came after a minor technical scare in the lead up to Prologue, but the New South Welshman flexed his muscles to snatch pole from the 2022 champion Ryan Taylor and Kye Floyd by just over one second.

His blistering pace continued in the opening section as he was the only driver to finish the first lap of the event within the hour, and while Taylor and Floyd battled hard against Travis Robinson and Andew Pinto, Raana Horan and Michael Connors squeezed into the top three at the expense of the West Australians.

Highlighting the closeness of the competition, just two minutes separated the two four crews, while pro buggies were dominating the day with eight of the top 10.

The only top-10 crews not in a pro buggy were Pro-lite leaders Mel Brandle and Nick Price, who finished the section in fifth place, and SXS Pro leaders James Cook and Mitch Aucote in ninth.

On Sunday, the event was turned on its head midway through the day’s action as Howells and Tardrew crashed out during the section’s second lap.

That elevated Taylor and Floyd to the race lead, until mechanical dramas affected the 2022 Pooncarie Desert Dash winners, causing them to lose lots of time – and while they managed to get up and running again, they ended up finishing outside the top 20.

Photos: Dan Thompson

With both Howells and Taylor out, it allowed Horan and Robinson to fight for the win as the two crews were in a league of their own for the rest of the day.

In the end, it was the New Zealand entry of Horan and Connors who took out the win – beating Robinson and Pinto by just one minute.

Crossing the line 10 minutes later was Brandle and Price, with the South Australian securing a maiden AORC podium.

The 2024 AORC season begins with the Wentworth Shire Pooncarie Desert Dash in the far south-west Riverina region of New South Wales on 19-21 April.