With the desert duelling season – Finke and Hattah – over for another year, the Motul Pirelli Sherco Race Team returns to short-course action this weekend for rounds five and six of the 2022 Australian Off-Road Championship in Mendooran (NSW).

However, there may still be an element of desert familiarity for teamsters Jonte Reynders and Callum Norton, with two of the four loops at Mendooran – 75km north-east of Dubbo – dominated by soft, deep sand.

That’s music to the ears of Norton, who has been in scintillating sand form and was leading the way at Hattah ahead of eventual winner Daniel ‘Chucky’ Sanders before he was forced to retire with a gearbox gremlin.

“I’m excited to be hitting some more sand, and the rougher the better,” said Norton. “I’m feeling good, and the Sherco has been handling brilliantly – Hattah proved that.

“It was a ripper event and fun as racing alongside Chucky and Todd Waters, so the DNF really stung.

“However, the only option is to regroup and keep on pushing, and that’s what I’ll be doing on my 450 SEF Factory this weekend.”

Norton is currently 11th in the E2 standings after being forced out of rounds three and four in Mackay (Qld) in early April with a knee injury.

Meanwhile, Reynders’ recent AORC form has been withering, easily winning the E3 class in Mackay’s round four and falling agonisingly close – by just 1.289 seconds – of  claiming the outright on his 300 SE Factory.

With his confidence sky high, Jonte then did the business in a one-lap 'dash for cash' top 10 shootout against his major rivals to bookend the Queensland blockbuster.

Since that breakout performance in Mackay, Reynders has continued winning in his home state of Tasmania after some electrifying battles with long-time rival Kyron Bacon, and he then swapped the two-stroke for a 450 SEF Factory at Hattah.

Ahead of AORC action this weekend, the Sherco race truck is carrying both his regular 300 as well as a 500 SEF Factory, with Reynders to make a decision on which bike to ride in E3 when he surveys the scene on his arrival – or there’s also the option to adopt a horses for courses strategy.

“I was really happy with my speed at Hattah, and I was already pushing close to the top 10 when I suffered a mechanical,” said Reynders. “It was still an invaluable experience, and if we end up spending a lot of time on the sand in Mendooran the big four-stroke will come into its own compared to the 300.

“I’ll wait and see what transpires, but it’s been three months since we’ve seen AORC action so there’s certainly plenty of anticipation.

“I really enjoy the AORC sprint format, too, and I’m looking forward to renewing my rivalry with Andy Wilksch.”

Reynders is currently just 8pts (97 to 89) behind Wilksch in the E3 standings, with eight rounds still remaining.

For more information on the Australian Off-Road Championship, including accessing live timing, click here