Thirty-six-year-old self-confessed offroad racing enthusiast Michael Shipton is hoping this Mad Max lookalike will take him safely from point A to point B when he tackles the infamous Tatts Finke Desert Race later this year.
Shipton, of Two Wells, is the grunt behind PRT Racing and has spent the better part of two years building this beast from the ground up, modifying a 2008 PJ Ford Ranger so it will (hopefully, fingers crossed) handle the rough, dusty conditions of Australia’s iconic 200-kilometre plus desert race in June.
“We’ve built this to handle Finke,” the man of few words explained.
“That’s why it’s as big as it is.
“It’s evolved as we’ve gone along; it’s more than what it was meant to be but we won’t know how it will go until we get it out on the track.”
The Tatts Finke Desert Race is an off road, multi terrain two-day race for bikes, cars, buggies and quads through desert country from Alice Springs to the small community of Aputula (Finke).
The race is held each year on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend in June and is one of the biggest annual sporting events in the Northern Territory.
The race has the reputation of being one of the most difficult off road courses in one of the most remote places in the world but this just gets Shipton more excited.
“I love going fast,” he laughed.
“I’ve navigated in this race before; it’s pretty bumpy, but I can’t wait to get in the driver’s seat.”
Sitting next to “Shipo” in the navigator’s seat will be long-time friend Paul “Dougzy” Chorlton.
The pair has tackled more than a few of South Australia’s off-road racing tracks over the last few years and will compete in the Class 5 performance two-wheel-drive category.
They are looking forward to “taking on the big guys” and putting their new vehicle to the test.
“This car should ride really well,” Shipton said.
“It should be like sitting on a couch really, with the suspension we’ve got in it.”
With $20,000 worth of shock absorbers alone, roll bars, full cams cage, 35-inch tyres, a communications and navigation system, air blowers to their helmets plus a fully built turbo 400 transmission, this beast is no cheap set-up.
A host of local automotive businesses have been adding their stamp to the vehicle, which will feature at the Adelaide Auto Expo at the Adelaide Showgrounds on January 29 and 30.
“We hope to give the car a test-run at an offroad racing event in Parilla in May,” Shipton said.
“I can’t wait to get in it and not slow down for the big bumps,” Shipton said.
“The Commodore (we had before) just couldn’t handle them.
“This is going to be so much fun; it’s going to be dusty – it’s always dusty – but it’ll be a laugh.”
While the PRT Racing team has high hopes for its custom-built vehicle, Shipton said he will be tackling the Finke race with a little caution and only has the finish line in his sights.
“Next year I’ll drive it like I stole it, but this year I just want to get to the end in one piece,” he laughed.