Alex Gobert focuses on the world of off-road, presented by Yamaha's 2012 WR450F.
The Yamaha Australian Off-Road Championship will finally fire back into life this weekend, when South Australia hosts the ninth and 10th rounds of the season at Kapunda.
Initially they were supposed to be the 11th and 12th rounds, but Conondale was cancelled, meaning we’ll now see two less rounds in season 2012. The end result will likely be the same anyway, with Toby Price on track to win his third career AORC title, only this time as an E3 class regular.
In previous years it’s been the E2 ranks that have reigned supreme, but Price’s decision to ride the 500 EXC this year means that we will very much likely see the E3 class winner take the Outright as well.
Motorex KTM Off-Road Racing’s Price has a 42-point lead Outright already, so barring disaster on Saturday, he’ll enter Sunday’s finale as the newly crowned champion – adding it to the titles he won in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
Behind Price entering the weekend is E2 series leader Matt Phillips, aboard the all-new Yamaha WR450F for Ballard’s. These two are both former motocrossers and are both fresh from racing last weekend’s Monster Energy MX Nationals round at Moree.
The interesting thing is that both were picked up by factory support teams in the nationals, with Price joining the Choice Motorsports KTM team and Phillips riding alongside team owner Craig Anderson in the Berry Sweet/Lucas Oil Yamaha team.
In qualifying it was Price who got the upper-hand in 14th, with Phillips shadowing him in 15th. The positions might not sound spectacular, but there were some very well credentialed moto regulars right in behind both Toby and Matt.
Come moto one it was Price who again got the nod in 13th, with Phillips fighting to 16th. The second 15-minute moto was directly afterward, with Price sneaking inside the top 10 in a very fine performance. Meanwhile, Phillips was 17th this time around.
The Yamaha man saved his best for last however, battling through the final 30-minute moto to finish an inspired 11th, while Price was forced to settle for 14th. Overall, Price was 11th and Phillips 15th.
Australia’s top two off-roaders were impressive to say the least, with at least one recognised front-runner admitting he had come under pressure from Price more than once throughout the weekend.
There’s obviously a lot more to becoming a regular in the motocross scene (and most likely a lot more pressure if they were to come back full time), but the form of both Price and Phillips against a stacked field of the country’s best motocrossers makes you wonder just how well they’d adapt if they came to play more often.
This weekend though it’s back to the bush, doing what they do best, and you’d have to say they’ll be the E3 and E2 title favourites respectively after strong campaigns to date (it’s a shame it clashes with the MX season finale though!).
The E1 class may just be the most nail-biting of all this weekend, with Josh Green hanging right in there behind fellow Yamaha rider Daniel Milner. The latter’s been the dominant guy to date, but his fuelling problem at round eight means Green is still right there, just 11 points behind.
It’ll be a great weekend of competition with some very talented riders and first class teams, so if you’re in the area or are keen to see some quality racing, check out www.ma.org.au/aorc for more info on the series and this weekend’s event.