Diff problems in the ‘grand final’ failed to halt the charge by Colin Hunter and his Extreme Motorsports team who have again dominated their class in the Australian Off Road Championship – the fifth year in a row.
Hunter Racing’s V8 Jeep Grand Cherokee competes in ‘Extreme 4WD’ which used to be known as Class Eight and is open to highly modified 4WD vehicles with engines not exceeding 6000c.
The team notched up their fifth consecutive class championship crown at the Albins Off Road Gear Goondiwindi 400, which was run in south-western Queensland over the weekend of October 17-19.
“We lost the front diff half-way around the first stage,” Hunter says.
“We actually thought it was the drive shaft but when we checked, we couldn’t see a problem, so we kept going to the service park and that’s when we found we had broken three teeth on the crown wheel.”
The damage to the Cherokee – and to many other competitors’ vehicles – was a direct result of the state of the track. Hard-packed, with lots of ‘melon-holes’, it kept the cars constantly unsettled which caused a multitude of drive-train issues.
“We only had the one stage on the Saturday, which was fortunate,” Hunter says.
“We didn’t have all the parts we needed with us, so the guys drove a marathon trip back to Brisbane to rebuild the diff, and then all the way back to Goondiwindi to fit it (350km each way), so we could continue. It was an amazing effort.”
The good news for the team is that it was the last of their bad luck. Sunday’s two stages went without a hitch, leaving Hunter Racing in 14th outright and first in class – and, more importantly, with the 2008 trophy firmly in their hands.
“It is great to take another class win – that makes it five in a row – but it’s not necessarily good for the sport to have one person dominating. Mind you, I think it’s the same story in every class of the championship and I’m not sure I know how to fix it.”
Hunter and the team will be back to do it all over again in the 2009 season, but won’t be having much of a break between now and then. They’re hard at work developing a Class Five 2WD V8 Cherokee with the idea of selling it as a kit car that can run in a variety of offroad, rally and rallysprint events.
“We’re building it as an entry-level vehicle for people who want to get into the sport but don’t have a lot of money to spend,” Hunter says.
“My crew chief Stewart Knowles and the guys at Extreme Motorsports are doing all the work and we’re really excited about it. We would love to see a Jeep Speed series up and running within the Off Road Championship but that may be a way off yet.”
Colin Hunter was assisted in the cabin this year by Margot Knowles, stepping in for regular navigator Bronwyn Humphrey who took time off to have her first child.
“I’d like to thank Margot and the team for all their hard work. Another class trophy is a tribute to all the effort they put in.
“I would also like to thank Goodyear, Modena Engineering and Chrysler Jeep for their ongoing support. We certainly couldn’t do it without them.”
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