Features 19 Oct 2023

Countdown: Events of AORC 2023

The standout moments during the championship this year.

The 2023 Yamaha Australian Off-Road Championship (AORC) has been run and won for another year, with a mix of new champions and multi-time title winners emerging. In this edition of Countdown, MotoOnline takes a closer look at some of the standout performances and decisive moments that occurred throughout the season that was. 

Image: Foremost Media.

6: Bacon unstoppable in E1 return from injury:
Defending E1 number one Kyron Bacon (ShopYamaha Off-Road Racing) made the perfect start to his title defence, sweeping rounds one and two of the season at Mendooran. However, his season was turned on its head when he broke his femur at a Tasmanian local event, forcing him to the sidelines during the next rounds at Queensland Moto Park (QMP). With rounds five and six cancelled due to heavy rainfall at Edenhope, Bacon returned for rounds seven and eight in Keyneton. From that point, he didn’t drop a round win in class, storming his way to third in the standings, just six points from the title. Considering his comeback from injury and missing up to 50 points at QMP, it was an impressive feat for the highly-rated WR250F rider, who also enjoyed success across the Portugal rounds of the EnduroGP World Championship recently.

5. Consistency pays off for Sheidow: 
Making the switch from KTM machinery to a WR250F for 2023, the aim of bLU cRU-supported racer Cooper Sheidow was to build throughout the season, with no explicit expectations in regard to results. However, come season-end, and consistency paid off for the 22-year-old South Australian who captured his first E1 title. Sheidow finished every AORC round on the podium this year in class, and had the opportunity to fast-track his experience onboard the Yamaha as a fill-in for the injured Bacon at QMP – where in was second in class behind GasGas racer Korey McMahon – in addition to the Australian Four-Day Enduro (A4DE) where he was an impressive fourth outright and second in class. Sheidow has outlined ambitions of one-day racing in the American-based Grand National Cross Country Championship (GNCC) if the opportunity arises, but for 2024 looks to stay onboard a Yamaha in AORC. Between himself, Bacon and EJ winner Will Dennett, the brand’s future off-road appears to be in good hands.

4. Blistering pace set by Reynders in AORC second-half:
If there was a standout performer in the second-half of the AORC this year, it was Sherco-mounted Reynders. A relatively quiet start to the year in terms of results saw number 714 go 4-3-4 in E2 across the opening rounds, before finding his stride on day two at QMP to take the round win. A DNF at round seven at Keyneton was a negative blow to this title aspirations, but from that point he won every round in the E2 class, also sweeping the final stop of this year’s calendar at Dungog as the outright fastest rider. Reynders wasn’t the only key E2 contender to miss out on points throughout the year, with KTM-mounted Andy Wilksch sidelined from Mendooran with knee and leg injuries. In addition, he also clinched victory in the A4DE this year by the slightest of margins in Harvey, Western Australia.

Image: Foremost Media.

3. Near-perfect Gardiner seals EW championship number eight: 
JGR Yamaha Ballard’s Off-Road’s Jess Gardiner is synonymous with success in the EW category, adding an eighth AORC title in the class during the 2023 season to her impressive list of accolades achieved at both a domestic and international level. Battling illness at the Mendooran rounds, Gardiner finished second to Taylor Thompson on both days, but from round three at QMP, she was untouchable and won eight rounds on the trot on her way to yet another title. Internationally, she finished a credible second overall in the EW class of the EnduroGP World Championship to add further success to her 2023 season which also included a seventh-class victory at the AD4E. Add in the success of Danielle McDonald with the JG title under Gardiner’s wing and it’s clear that both are the class of their respective fields.

2. McGillivray pulls through in E3 nail-biter:
The E3 title battle between Husqvarna-backed Stefan Granquist and KTM-mounted Riley McGillivray was a memorable one, with McGillivray ultimately emerging victorious in a battle that went right down to the wire. It was Sam Pretscherer (Simford Motorsport Group Husqvarna) who dominated the opening round in class at Mendooran, but from there, E3 wins were split by Granquist and McGillivray, with the pair going toe-to-toe for much of the season. After Granquist won Saturday’s penultimate round at Dungog, just one point separated both riders at the head of the standings, with McGillvray scoring a decisive victory on Sunday in New South Wales to clinch the title.

1. Career-first ‘outright’ crown for Green:
A mix of winning performances and banking points when it counted saw Josh Green (ShopYamaha Off-Road Racing) make it back-to-back titles in the stacked E2 class, also notably winning the first ‘outright’ title in his decorated AORC career. Three wins in class to start the season gave the number 99 a healthy buffer out front, and despite the building moment of title-rival Reynders, Green controlled his advantage at the head of the standings by finishing inside the top two in all but one of the rounds contested. It was a perfect example of how to manage a championship, despite Green coming off sickness prior to select rounds, plus battling injuries that included a knee rebuild and thumb damage along the way. The question now is, will he suit up again in 2024 with the number one plate of call it a day once and for all in going out on top? Time will tell.