CATCH THE ‘COLONEL’: Husqvarna star Daniel Sanders is determined to defend his Hattah Desert Race title this weekend. Photo: PAUL MENSCH

By MITCH RODD

THE title of defending Hattah Desert Race champion sits well with Daniel Sanders, PICTURED.

Becoming a back-to-back champion, however, is an even tastier prospect for the 24-year-old.

Sanders will be the rider everyone wants to catch at the 22nd enduro event hosted by the North West Victorian Motorcycle Club (NWVMCC) this weekend.

The competitor from Three Bridges, Victoria, returned to racing in Australia in 2018 following a single season on the European enduro circuit. After joining the Husqvarna Enduro Racing Team, he consequently grabbed his first Hattah title, as well the E2 class crown in the Australian Off-Road Championship (AORC).

Like many other competitors, ‘Chucky’ Sanders said Hattah is the toughest event on the racing calendar, and believes this weekend could top the lot in terms of physicality.

“It is the toughest race we do every year,” he told Mildura Weekly.

“I have to make sure I’m at my peak fitness for this race to last four hours, and it’s harder every lap we do.

“This year it’s really wet so the track’s going to get really rough and deep, so it’s going to be probably the toughest one yet.

“We have to prepare, you have to have the team ready for it and your body and your bike.

“I’ve been working really hard for the last three months with my mechanic, Louie, and the team.”

After multiple podium finishes, Sanders finally broke through for his maiden Hattah title with a commanding performance.

With riders in the ilk of 2017 race winner Daniel Milner, Josh Green, Lyndon Snodgrass and Ouyen’s Nathan Trigg breathing down his neck, the Victorian will not relinquish his crown easily.

“I came second a few years in a row and just finally wanted to get that win, and last year it came, and now it’s time to back it up,” Sanders said.

“I’ve been putting in the hard yards, it’s been a big couple of months in the lead up to it, really looking forward to getting out there on Saturday and Sunday.

“We all push each other’s limits while racing. It’s really close between myself and Daniel Milner, who’s probably my strongest competitor.

“It’s always me and him battling it out and I’m sure we’ll be out there this weekend closely racing, hopefully I’ll come out on top which is always the goal.”

The current leader of the AORC E3 class is joined by rising star Fraser Higlett in the Husqvarna Enduro Racing Team for 2019 Hattah Desert Race.

The 19-year-old had an impressive 2018, and it seems the duo have built a strong camaraderie.

“We have a lot of fun out there,” Sanders said.

“If any spectator sees us, you’ll see us joking around there, we’ll be mucking around just like kids on the oval at play time. We have a lot of fun with our sport and our job.”

The 2019 Hattah Desert Race weekend begins with scrutineering from 3pm today at Quandong Park, Red Cliffs.

Tomorrow sees qualifying from 9am at the track on Boonoonar Road, Colignan, before the Juniors take to the track in the afternoon.

Senior racing begins from 9am on Sunday.

For further information visit hattahdesertrace.com.au.