Custom GQ Patrol takes on the 2017 Outback Challenge

MANY would assume the Outback Challenge (OBC) requires a big-dollar, V8-powered, off-road super truck that rides on a combination of finely tuned and expensive suspension components – think again.

Paul Andrewartha has proven you don’t need a big-dollar truck to compete in Australia’s most prestigious off-road event. At the sprightly age of 43, with just a glimpse of OBC in 2014 that was cut short due to mechanical failure – along with two short-course events under his belt – Paul had developed a taste for off-road events.

Paul’s relatively standard, carburetted TB42 petrol GQ has had input from a couple of workshops along the way, with the most recent seven-week race prep undertaken by Ty Couche (also Paul’s navigator) and ARB Ballarat. Following a slight mishap at the Patrolapart Challenge, some repairs and a full prep for the upcoming OBC were needed. Ty’s commitment and eye for detail shone through and provided a solid and reliable base to work with during the event.

Custom GQ Patrol Paul Andrewartha
While many entrants tow their race cars to Broken Hill on a trailer, Paul simply tows a small box trailer containing moderately sized 35-inch Simex race tyres.

This GQ has a fairly basic modification list that includes a tune (which still nets less than half the power of an LS, at 115kW), bolt-in King shocks, 4.6 factory Nissan gears wrapped around ARB Air Lockers, a factory Nissan GU diff for added axle strength, a ute chop to provide tray space, and a single-motor Warn 8000lb high-mount winch fitted with an air free spool and powered by a single alternator off a later model 4.5-litre petrol. Abiding by the sanctioning bodies’ safety specs, this GQ is fitted with a CCDA-compliant roll cage, harnesses and window nets that simply clip onto the doors for race duties.

Custom GQ Patrol water crossing
After tackling the week-long event in the harsh outback surrounding of Broken Hill, Paul reminisced: “You spend a week competing then spend the next 12 months dreaming of doing it again.” He made particular mention of his two favourite stages, the Rock Gorge and Mad Max. Both stages require careful wheel placement and driver input, and they amplify the need to maintain race pace without pushing the car to breaking point.

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Paul cited the camaraderie and mateship the teams share as the week progresses. Where else do you get to drive your truck for a week, at speed, in surroundings like this with a group of people all there to enjoy the experience?

Custom GQ Patrol  hill climb
With the excellent job of race prep performed by Ty, minimal repairs were needed throughout the week. However, with the race being designed to test man and machine, Paul says a good tool kit and some basic spares such as a starter motor, alternator, tie rod ends, two spare wheels and a box of assorted nuts, bolts and hoses will never go astray.

You may be thinking ‘yeah, you could race in a car like this, but what hope would you have against the big boys?’ Well, Paul and Ty finished up with a respectable ninth position overall – not bad for an old TB42!

Since OBC, Paul’s humble GQ has done many a camping trip, including a run to Alice Springs. So now that we have busted the OBC big-dollar truck myth – are you ready for adventure?

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