The new lead rider on the Husqvarna Australia off-road squad, Lachlan Stanford, has made no bones about his intentions coming into this weekend’s Australian Off Road Championship opener at Rawson, in south-eastern Victoria – he’s there to win it.
After a long and productive off-season spent getting stronger and sharper, the 25-year-old is in the best shape of his career, and ready to convert his recent upward career trajectory into a season-long fight for the crown.
Adding weight to his challenge will be a Husqvarna FE501, a machine perfectly suited to Stanford’s silky smooth style.
“I’m excited. I truly am, my Husqvarna FE 501 is exceptional, so having that under me is a huge confidence boost," Stanford said. "As for the AORC, I feel like I’m fit and ready after the long off-season. I’ve done a lot more in the gym and my strength makes me feel better on the bike, and I’ve ridden with Dean Ferris and Kirk Gibbs whenever I can to build speed and practise at a motocross intensity. I’m pretty determined this year, Husqvarna have put a lot of time and money into me and I really want to reward them with results. Personally too, I’m 100% committed to winning the AORC. Nothing less.”
Lachlan Stanford. Credit: Jeff Crow
This year he’ll be joined under the Husqvarna team tent by 23-year-old Bathurst star Broc Grabham, promoted from Husqvarna’s support ranks to a factory ride on the back of numerous barn-storming results in the second half of last year’s AORC season.
“I’ve had a few little dramas injury-wise - tore my AC joint in my right shoulder a few weeks back - but everything’s healed up 110% and I’m feeling fitter and stronger on the bike than I was before," Grabham shared.
"I’m really looking forward to this; there are new guys and new bikes and teams, but I’m feeling fairly confident that I can run top-three all year. The off season has gone great and the bike feels good, and the new team with Christian and Lewie as mechanic has been going really good. I’m excited to get it underway.
"The bike is a bit different to what I had last year in regard to the parts I have access to, and Danny Apro is able to get the suspension even better than before. It’s taken me a bit to get used to letting other people work on my bike, I can imagine I’ll be trying to fight Lewie to work on my bike or something this weekend! It’s going to be awesome to put a bit more time into the training this year rather than have to worry about getting my stuff ready.”
Ben Grabham. Credit: Jeff Crow
Grabham will ride a Husqvarna FE450 in the E2 category of the AORC, in a team under new management, with former motocross pro Christian Horwood having stepped up from the Head Technician role he’s held for the last three years, into the Team Management role left vacant by long time Husky stalwart Glenn Kearney, who stepped across to the KTM awning.
“The whole team’s very excited to start the season," Horwood said. "The new venue is a little unknown to us, but it sounds like it’s going to suit both our riders and we’re excited to start the first day of racing with a cross-country format.
"Our goals this year are class and championship wins and after the few small hit-outs that we’ve had, it’s clear both riders have put in a lot of work on and off the bike and stepped it up speed-wise. There’s definitely going to be a new champion at the end of this year, so it’s all up for grabs. Lachy’s been working hard, riding with fast guys and just working on the little things, so I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do.”
Husqvarna has also thrown it's support behindf exciting 17-year-old schoolboy Fraser Higlett in this year’s championship. The talented Brisbane rider is back for a second crack at the Transmoto 19 and Under category in which he finished third last year, and of course, to make inroads into his overall ranking at each round.
“I’m going to do U19 this year and see how I go, then the plan is to step up next year once I’m out of school," Higlett explainerd. "A couple of guys have gone, so it will be me, Nick Tomlinson, Michael Driscoll – I reckon he’ll be fast – and probably a couple of others who’ll come in. My goal is to win this year. I’ve put pretty much put in as much effort in as I possibly can with school and riding, so I’m feeling alright about that. So we’ll see how we go. Hopefully we can get a couple of wins and give the championship a shake.”
Higlett has an exceptional passion for motorcycling in a range of varieties, and his latest weapon of choice is the two-stroke Husqvarna TE250 he’s chosen for season 2017.