A third and second place in the final two rounds of the 2016 Australian Off-Road Championship (AORC) at Penshurst in Victoria was good enough to see Jess Gardiner finish in second place in championship standings.
With Victoria once again turning on the water works before rounds eleven and twelve, it made conditions somewhat very ‘interesting’, which meant Saturday’s cross-country format ended up being ran as a sprint style format, with only a total of three heats being completed.
The first heat for Gardiner was “terrible” by her standards as she got bogged and crashed twice and on top of that made a few other mistakes, which saw her finishing in fourth place with a time of 18min40.187.
“The conditions were really tricky out there,” Gardiner said after her first heat.
“It was just really wet and muddy. It took a little while to just find my feet out there, but in the end it all came together. We’ll just have to see what the rest of the day holds.”
The second heat saw the twenty-three-old just a tad too eager, which unfortunately saw her come off four times.
However, Gardiner was able to lower her lap time, this time finishing with an 18min00.155.
The former three times Australian Off-Road Champion turned the tables around in the third and final run for the day finishing with the third quickest time, a 17min33.914.
“That was nice to get through that final heat without crashing,” Gardiner said at the conclusion of round eleven.
“In saying that it was still quite difficult to ride as it was still very slippery out there. However the Yamaha WR250F and the Michelin tyres worked a treat today in the trying conditions. It’s a credit to the bike and those black rubber things which just made my life a whole lot easier,” added Gardiner, who finished with a total time of 54min14.256 which was her fourth consecutive third placing for the 2016 season.
For the grand finale on Sunday, Gardiner finished the season on a high with a second place overall, which was her first second place since round six at Murray Bridge in South Australia at the end of April.
Once again Gardiner had to deal with a track which was drying out, then it would get wet again as it would start raining on and off, proving to be another challenging day at the office.
In a total of five heats, Gardiner managed to finish with the second best time in the second, fourth and fifth run. Her best time came in the final run when she stopped the clock with an 8min18.006.
“I felt a lot better on the bike and went into the round with a different approach,” explained Gardiner who finished with a total time of 42min52.060.
“Overall my different approach worked out great. In regards to the track, it was a bit easier than yesterday as there were no big holes to deal with. However it was still slick which made racing interesting, but overall it was a lot of fun overall.
The overall championship saw Gardiner finishing in second place with 251-points to her name. In total Gardiner racked up ten top three placing’s, which included win at round four in Portland in New South Wales. Five second placing’s and four third places with two fourths which came at round one and seven.
“I knew it was going to be tough start to the year, as I had three major broken bones in the last fifteen months, two of which were at the start of this season,” said Gardiner who had to decide if she was even going to compete in the two opening rounds in March.
“In the end I have to be really happy with the outcome with second place, knowing that I could even begin the season barely putting my hands on the handle bars. It was a tough season and it took a lot to dig down mentally and physically because I didn’t have a lot of time to train because I was unable to as I was physically broken.”
“Mentally that affects you. Overall I am happy with the end result, but I always want more, so it will make me hungrier for next year, which is always a good thing as well.”
“I would like to thank Yamaha Australia for having me back for this year. It’s been a pleasure to work with them again. With all my other personal sponsors, thank you to them as well. Thank you to Bulk nutrients, Motorex, Quick Check Australia, Total Tools Penrith, Funnel Web Filter and Novik Gloves and all my other smaller sponsors who help me out throughout the year.”
Gardiner will now turn her attention to the International Six Days Enduro (ISDE), which will be held at the Circuito Navarra, Spain, from 11-16 October.
Photos: John Pearson & Mad Dog Images