The 2022 Australian Off-Road Championship begins in Cherrabah (Qld) this weekend (March 19-20), with the expanded two-rider Motul Pirelli Sherco Race Team featuring the explosive talents of incumbent Jonte Reynders and new signing Callum Norton.
In 2022, Reynders will continue to ride the 300 SE Factory two-stroke in the E3 class, while Norton's going down the four-stroke route in the E2 category on the 450 SEF Factory.
Both riders have enjoyed excellent pre-seasons, with Norton's preparation including a stirring hat-trick of wins in last weekend's Desert MotoX event in country Victoria.
Reynders planned racing shakedown in the opening round of the Tasmanian enduro series was scuppered because of dust concerns, but the 24-year-old is unfazed after an excellent block of testing on the mainland last month.
"I couldn't be happier with how the 300 SE Factory is performing," said Reynders. "We've worked on some great suspension settings, and I'm expecting some tighter singletrack terrain in Queensland which will really suit my bike.
"I also enjoy the sprint format rounds and my body is feeling great so I can't wait to get amongst it. Practice and training are vital parts of the equation, but now we've got to make sure all the hard work pays off when in matters."
Reynders' major rivals in E3 will include Stefan Granquist, Andrew Wilksch and Tom McCormack, while the hot-bed of E2 will see Norton take on the likes of Joshua Green, Fraser Higlett, Todd Waters and Michael Driscoll.
It's a challenge the gifted 21-year-old Norton is relishing, in a discipline which took a relative back seat to motocross and desert racing during his formative years.
Far from undaunted, Norton is preparing to come out swinging in Cherrabah.
"I can't believe how I've gelled so well with the Sherco 450," said Norton. "Last week's victory in Desert MotoX was a great start to my career with Sherco and to get some race feel. It has also given me an extra level of motivation that I have the equipment, form and attitude to make an enormous impact in the AORC.
"Of course, the terrain will be hugely different in Cherrabah compared to the open and sandy tracks of country Victoria, but the power characteristics of the 450 really suit my style of riding and I've been doing lots of practice on the tighter stuff near my hometown of Lorne.
"There are some big names in E2 with lots of speed and experience, and I'm looking forward to battling it out with them."
Norton's remit in 2022 for the Motul Pirelli Sherco Race Team will also include the Finke and Hattah desert races on the big-bore Sherco 500 SEF Factory.
Both opening rounds of the AORC will be over a sprint format, and following Cherrabah the championship heads further north to Mackay for rounds three and four.
The championship then visits New South Wales and South Australia before – in a tantalising prospect for Reynders – concluding in Tasmania on October 8-9 with rounds 11 and 12.
Spectators are welcome at the AORC opener, and the location is 1 Keoghs Road, Elbow Valley, Warwick, Qld.
For live timing, click here
For more information on the 2022 AORC, click here
For more information on the Motul Pirelli Sherco Race Team, click here