Andy Wilksch wasted no time getting back to his top game after recovering from an injury for the seventh round of the 2023 Australian Off-Road Championship (AORC) in Keyneton, SA.
Unfortunately, his return to the racing was cut short once more due to a persistent knee injury during round eight.
The Cross Country event on Saturday, the first since 2019, was totally owned by Wilksch. He not only snagged his first outright victory of this year’s series but also took charge right from the start. Throughout the gruelling six-lap race, Wilksch held onto the lead position.
After logging the fastest lap time of the entire race, the 26-year-old decided to spend some extra time during his fuel stop. His goal was to change his air filter and cover to make sure his bike could keep performing at its best in the dry and dusty conditions.
The risk he took paid off. While some of his closest rivals struggled in the challenging conditions later in the race, Wilksch pushed through and clinched both the E2 and overall wins. His finishing time of 2 hours, 56 minutes, and 34 seconds beat the second-place finisher, Josh Green, by over one-and-a-half minutes.
Sunday’s eighth round proved to be a tough one for Wilksch. On the first lap of the Sprint format, the reigning E3 champion tweaked his already-troubled knee while crossing a creek. He managed to finish the test in fifth place overall. However, as the pain intensified during the second test, he had to make the tough call to retire from the round.
“It was a big weekend and managing energy was key.” Wilksch explained, “It was cool to have a return to the Cross Country format and I had a really good race – I got the holeshot and pushed hard early to gain a lead. Knowing how dusty it was, we spent some extra time at the fuel stop swapping out the filter and cover, to make sure we could manage the bike as best we could for the rest of the race. I had some E2 contenders right behind me, but I focused forward, hit my marks, and was able to pull it together and win my first outright of the year!
“Sunday I wanted to back it up, but sadly I hit a soft spot in a creek on the first test and hurt my right knee, which I’ve had dramas with all year. I really struggled to put weight through it on the second test, so we made the tough decision to not continue as I wasn’t competitive anymore. It was a far from ideal way to end the weekend, but I’m super-stoked to get my first win for KTM and show what we can do.”
Looking forward, rounds nine and ten of AORC 2023 are set to take place in Kyogle, New South Wales, on September 16-17.