St George making a change for the better

When the Cobb & Co Hotel St George 399 rolls around in March, it will have been almost two years since off road crews took on the rural South Queensland based event.

As it has for the past few seasons, the event will once again host the BFGoodrich Motorsport Australia Off Road Championship (AORC) season opener with plenty of crews from around the country ready to tackle their first event in a long time.

While most of the AORC regulars would be expecting to run on the same course they spent three years perfecting, the South East Queensland Off Road Racing Association (SEQORRA) have made some big changes in order to mix things up.

Firstly, the event will see competitors run in the opposite direction to what they did between 2017 and 2019, adding some unfamiliarity to the mix, while one of the location’s ring tanks has been filled with water – forcing the club to adjust the course accordingly.

A change in personnel sees former Kincrome SXS Motorsport Australia Championship Clerk of Course Brendan McLean replace Barry Nuendorff in the hot seat for 2021 and beyond, but this biggest and most notable change is the format.

Most AORC events run a traditional format of scrutineering on Friday afternoon, prologue and one section on Saturday and the race’s remaining kilometres on Sunday across multiple sessions.

For 2021 though, the St George 399 organisers have made the decision to move Prologue to Friday afternoon after scrutineering and make a day of it, while two heats will be run on both Saturday and Sunday.

It certainly adds another interesting element to the event, allowing crews of all experiences to be on the same level playing field when it comes to course, something SEQORRA President Kym Barber was excited for.

“We’re definitely looking forward to the 2021 edition of the race as it’s been so long and preparations are well underway. We’re just in the final stages of getting everything fully organised,” Barber said.

“We’re pretty happy with all the changes we have made ahead of the event, especially since we didn’t lose any distance despite having to change it up due to the ring tank.

“Everything will mostly be the same as previous years, but we just wanted to make some of the changes after getting some great feedback from competitors and running a successful mini event last year when the COVID-19 restrictions eased.

“The track seems to flow better in reverse and the decision to move prologue to Friday means we get a lot more time for action on Saturday and Sunday and anybody who has problems has more time to fix their vehicles.

“As for the other change, we are grateful to Barry for all his contributions over the past few years and wish him all the best. When it comes to Brendan, he brings a wealth of experience in running events and a lot of the crews who double up with SXS would be familiar with him, so it’s a great get for us.”

Entries and the completed Supplementary Regulations for the event will be available over the next couple of weeks with interested crews having until the end of February to register for the event once open.

Spectators are also expected to be allowed to attend the AORC season opener via the event’s grandstand where more than 20 kilometres of the track is visible.

The 2021 Cobb & Co Hotel St George 399 takes place in South George on 19-21 March.

Photos: Terry Hill Photography