Off-road fanatics team up for fun

Kate MatthewsCountryman

There’s a new sport in WA gaining momentum and it’s not for the faint hearted.

Imagine navigating across sand dunes, bush tracks, beach flats and up steep hills — that’s just one part of it.

Add in mastering how to use a global positioning device in less than two hours so you can find 30 location points in under three hours in the dark and you’re on the right track.

It’s known as the Polaris RZR WA Adventure Challenge, an extreme 4 x 4 sport for side-by-side (SxS) off-road vehicles.

In the past 12 months, sales of SxS vehicles in Australia have grown by 30 per cent and recently, rally champion Cody Crocker won the Thump Pump 300 in an RZR 900-XP.

The new sport is expected to be just as big in WA as it is in the east where they have events including an outback challenge racing through mud flats and station country and a cliffhanger using winches to climb treacherous terrain.

One such event was held in Esperance recently. It was put together by Scott Higson, of South Coast Motorcycles, the local Polaris dealer, who organised competitors and logistics, and off-road racing enthusiast Adrian Parker, who marked the tracks and organised the course.

According to Scott, the Esperance adventure challenge was a hit and sure to grow in popularity.

“We don’t have that sort of terrain they do on the east coast so we made ours a navigational event which helped even out the field and everyone was new to it and had to learn, ” he said. “We all walked away with another skill, knowing how to navigate with a GPS.”

Eight teams of drivers and navigators from Kalgoorlie, Esperance and Hopetoun made their way through nine stages.

Starting on Friday night, teams ranging in age from 25 to 49, including one female, completed a marked course.

“You’re in the dark with the spotlights glaring, everyone’s excited and even though it was absolutely pouring with rain it didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits, they were just having so much fun, ” Scott said.

Saturday kicked off with learning how to configure and use the GPS before starting on navigation races that included finding 20 location points in daylight followed by 30 more points in three hours that night.

On Sunday, teams travelled almost 60km in a race that saw them going from one clue to the next.

“It’s a sport that gets you out in the bush for the weekend and using these types of vehicles — it’s really team oriented, ” Scott said.

“In motocross, it’s just you on your bike and racing. This is a real team sport where the two of you have to work together to work out where you are going.”

With the success of the recent event still being celebrated and only one incident — a flat tyre — planning is already underway for the next challenge.

Scott, an avid motorcycle enthusiast, had for the past few years been thinking about organising a challenge .

“It’s not as harsh on your body as motorbikes and motocross and it’s not as expensive as racing competition trucks where you can spend up to $200,000 or more, ” he said.

“You can get into a RZR for $25,000 and it’s a multi-use machine. It can be used for competitions, to go camping, fishing or social riding.

“And there are also models for the farm to help muster stock, cart hay bales and for general farm duties.

“The benefit is they have a smoother ride, are automatic and aren’t as heavy, so when the paddocks are wet, they won’t sink or get bogged and you can access areas you can’t in a ute.”

Overall scores: 1 Scott Higson and Ashley Worth, of Esperance, 863 pt; 2 Ric Casley and Lee Potthast, of Kalgoorlie, 812 pt; 3 Tristan Brown and Travis Robins, of Esperance, 761 pt; 4 Troy Higgins and John Simmons, of Kalgoorlie, 758 pt; 5 Randall Martin and Rob Mele, of Hopetoun, 739 pt; 6 Phil Arnold and Joel Willsher, of Esperance, 724 pt; 7 Robert and Sue Rout, of Kalgoorlie, 76 pt; 8 Tony and Paul Andrews, of Kalgoorlie, 0 pt.

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