Round 2, 2008 Australian Off Road Championship, Donald, Vic.
4-5 May 2008
Mitsubishi's Geoff Pickering with navigator, Mark Henderson alongside made light work of the newest addition to the Australian Off Road Championship, the Donald 500, taking the 4x4 class by storm in their Mitsubishi Pajero and finishing 15th outright against far more highly modified vehicles.
Based in the Victorian Mallee region, the Donald round was well received by the locals who got right behind the event and before the start, Pickering was also full of praise for the newcomer to the 2008 series.
"It's been a long time since we had a Victorian round on the calendar and it's good to be back in a state where Mitsubishi has a high profile and sells plenty of cars. The town of Donald has made us feel very welcome and from all perspectives it looks like it's going to be a great event. It's been quite a while since we saw this many people out watching along the course and here at the main service area. Basing the event right in town has been a good idea. The recent shower of rain has settled the dust. The course looks fantastic, not too many rough sections and plenty of long fast straights which will test out our top end performance on the Pajero."
Team Technician, Bernard Grant, was also looking forward to seeing the Pajero stretch its legs. "We stopped in Brisbane on the way down from Townsville and put the 'Paj' on the dyno to see how we were going with the performance. Geoff always says he's impressed with how the Pajero runs but it's nice to be sure that we are achieving the targets we set ourselves. Personally, I like to know that we supply with Geoff and Mark with the best possible prepared car we can to get the job done. The numbers we saw were and indication the Pajero is well and truly the quickest in the country, now it's simply up to the boys to bring it home."
Prophetic words they turned out to be for the Mitsubishi Team.
Pickering's run all weekend was simply faultless. While he rocketed along the wide open tracks and smaller sections of tricky bushland on the edge of the massive Lake Buloke, the competition around him had troubles.
Former Australian Champion, Shannon Rentsch was out with a broken drive shaft during lap two of the five lap event while Colin Hunter's Jeep was plagued with an engine misfire all weekend resulting in a substantial drop in power. On paper, the Suzuki Grand Vitara of David Jameson looked set to take the fight up to the Mitsubishi Pajero of Pickering but was simply no match for the experienced driver when the flag dropped.
"We were caught in Colin Hunter's dust for much of lap two which held us back but consistency is the name of the game in this sport and you need to pace yourself, not letting small issues like this take over your head. When that happens you make mistakes so staying back and waiting for an opportunity to pass is a much wiser decision even if it means losing some time. After all there was another 300km to make up the time deficit and what we didn't need was a broken windscreen or damaged tyre by taking a hasty decision to pass in the dust that had started to appear around the course."
Pickering's move paid off when he arrived at the end of the 500km race with top spot in the 4x4 class in his production class V6 Pajero, again beating more highly favoured opposition.
"You just can't hold us back," said Pickering at the finish. "The V6 Pajero again ran faultlessly all weekend, we didn't have a single problem. I reckon with a quick wash it would be ready to go and do the 500km all over again.......but maybe the crew aren't quite ready for it though!"
Next race is the season highlight, the Finke Desert Race in Alice Springs during June.
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