After a thrilling 2018 season came down to the final lap of the year, the DEWALT SXS Australian Championship is back for another year.
With more than 20 crews already entered into this month’s season opener at Cessnock Motor Cycle Club in New South Wales, competitors have been working hard to prepare their vehicles for the upcoming season.
While there are a number of Championship regulars entering the fold this year, all hoping to be on top of the standings come October, no one can look past reigning champion Simon Evans.
Like most returning competitors, Evans has equipped himself with a new set of wheels and has been tirelessly preparing for his defence.
“I have been working crazy hours to get everything ready for this year, but it’s easy because I am so excited to start the season,” Evans said.
“I never get too far ahead of myself before a season and I like to take it one event at a time. Next weekend I’ll get out there and evaluate the competition and the track. From that, I'll drive accordingly.
“I have been racing long enough to know it’s not all about luck and I have good car under me. I have the tools to go back-to-back and now I just need to see if I am capable of doing it.”
Another driver who knows what it’s like to win a SXS title is fellow Polaris pilot Mitch Keyte. After winning the SXS Sport class last year, Keyte believed he was ready to upgrade and get amongst the big boys.
“I am pretty keen to start the season, especially now that I have moved up into the Turbo class,” Keyte said.
"I bought the buggy recently and it’s a million pieces at the moment but I should be ready to go by next weekend.
“Moving up into the Turbo class is not particularly a big deal and I think my car has a bit more power as well which is good. I think I should provide a bit more competition to the top end drivers.”
After placing sixth outright last year, Glen Ackroyd is one of only four CAN-AM drivers competing and will need a big start to the year if he is to finally break into the top three.
“I am really excited about the first round because Cessnock looks really good and I am going to hit it hard,” Ackroyd explained.
“There are some really nice jumps out there and big tabletops. I had a look last weekend and I was impressed with it. I think it should be fun.
“I think it’s quite possible to finish in the top five this year or even the title, but I know it’s going to be hard to beat both Simon Evans and Stephen Henry.”
Ackroyd won’t be the only driver looking to Cessnock for a point to prove with Polaris pilot Amber Anderson also hoping for a much better start to the season.
“We have made some revisions to the car in the off season. We are hoping for a much better season in 2019 compared to last year,” Anderson said.
“The car is really strong and we have had good success so I think it’s just building on that and have a good mindset going into the first round, but I am aware the field has certainly opened up in 2019.
“Cessnock is a new track for everyone and I would expect that we would come away with a top three for at least two of the heats.
"I would love to beat Simon Evans if we can but he is in a new Polairis which will make it hard.”
The DEWALT SXS Australian Championship kicks off at Cessnock Motor Cycle Club in New South Wales on Saturday, 18 May.