Mother and daughter team Kateland Marshall and Sharon Sulzberger prepare for the race. (ABC News: Declan Gooch)
Handling a track that changes shape with every lap among sand dunes on Tasmania’s east coast is one of the biggest challenges in Australia’s longest-running off-road race .
The Tasmanian Sand Enduro at the Peron Dunes near St Helens is in its 46th year and still attracts a field of dedicated, adrenaline-fuelled competitors.
Drivers compete in five 100 kilometre heats over the two days.
Mother and daughter team Sharon Sulzberger and Kateland Marshall took it carefully during the first heat on Saturday.
“This is only the second time I’ve been in the car,” Marshall, the driver, said.
“Took it out last weekend for a first go but we were only in a small paddock.”
Ms Marshall said she was born into the off-road club, and her father had been a long-time member.
“Once you get in there the adrenaline gets in and you just go for it, and it was nice to spend time with mum,” she said.
Sulzberger, the navigator, said her husband had scared her away from getting into a buggy years ago.
“So I haven’t been back in it for quite some time,” she said.
“It was rough in a couple of spots, we got jiggled around a bit, had a bit of a squeal but apart from that it was really good.”
Scott Rockliff was one of nine entrants at the weekend’s event, but has been involved in the sport long enough to remember the days of a field of 50 cars.
“You can get into all sorts of trouble real quick on the sand, when you’re coming off the jumps sideways,” he said.
“Now we’ve got a lot more wheel travel, more horsepower, better gearboxes, we run bigger tyres,” he said.
“The track cuts up rougher because of that, and we’re punching around the track a lot quicker as things progress with technology.”
Scott Rockliff climbs out of his dune buggy after winning the first heat. (ABC News: Declan Gooch)
The heavy-duty tyres alter the track with each lap, creating challenges for some racers.
“It started off pretty smooth and flat and started to get cut up,” Chris Branch said.
Branch took an unintended dip in the ocean on what should have been a straight leg down the beach.
“I’ve come along the water’s edge and got too close and a wave dragged me in,” he said.
“Got half a metre deep [and] didn’t think I was going to come in. Only lucky that I stopped, and a wave actually pushed me back in.”
Branch was racing in a home-built buggy, but said the rise of retail kits made it easier for newcomers to get in the sport.
“You can buy one for $30,000, and just about be ready to race,” he said.
“Probably the easiest way to get into the sport is to buy one of them, put a cage on it, and you’re ready to go.”