WARRNAMBOOL thrillseekers Matthew Owen and Adam O’Connor are Australian bush racing champions.
Driver Owen and navigator O’Connor, both 37, combined to secure the Pro Lites class as part of the four-round Australian Off-Road Championship (AORC).
The pair placed fourth in a rain-affected final round at Gatton, outside Brisbane, driving their No. 130 Alumicraft buggy.
The performance was enough for them to hold on to a comfortable lead they had leading into the weekend.
Owen was rapt with the championship victory, which added to titles he won in 1998, 1999 and 2001.
“It wasn’t easy. It came down to the last race, basically,” he said.
“We had to finish fifth or better to get enough points to win it. We ended up fourth.
“We got a flat tyre and we lost a bit of time. It wasn’t a good feeling because they had a lot of rain on Friday night. The race distance was meant to be 320 kilometres. But due to the rain they shortened it to 130km.
“Normally if you get a flat tyre over 300km you can make time up. Over 100km it’s hard to make up the five minutes.”
Owen praised the role of O’Connor in the win.
“A good navigator certainly makes a big difference,” he said.
He said the campaign behind the wheel had gone smoothly.
“It was a new car. We debuted it in the middle of last year and we had a few issues last year we had to iron out,” he said. “This year has been relatively good. We’ve been relatively consistent.
“There would’ve been points awarded for 12 sections of the year over the four races.
“We probably led the class for eight of the 12 sections. The sections we failed in were the last sections of a few rounds.”
Owen and O’Connor will spend the off-season rebuilding the buggy in the hope they can defend their national crown next year.
They were one of two Warrnambool success stories in the final round.
Driver Matt Coleman and navigator Shawn Teagle won the round, which featured eight laps of a shortened 16.5km course.
Coleman and Teagle, in the No. 55 Alpha Pro buggy, were third on the road and loomed as the winners from midway through the race.
They placed second in the Pro class overall, behind championship winners Matt Hanson and Leigh Wells.
The first three rounds of the AORC were held at Sea Lake, Goondiwindi and Millicent.