For Danni Joyce off road racing isn’t just a sport you go do, it’s something which is so deeply seeded in your blood that no matter how many times the sport beats you down, you just keep coming back for more. Round 5 of the 2016 CAMS, PGS Industries WAORC is the event. The Cochranes Transport Badgingarra 250 is the daunting task that lies ahead. Danni and her family team have been involved in racing since 1987, that’s 29 years and it’s been 4 long years since they have finished a long course event. Racing in the Pro Buggy class Danni and navigator Andrew Pugh know that they are up against it. Their little Beam buggy runs a 3.8L Holden V6 with a Kombi Box and was originally built way back in 1983, although powered by a Rover V8 back then. This little beast has qualified in the top 10 at Finke albeit braking down just 5km into the race. It has had a tough life, being rolled 8 times at Dumbleyung and was nearly written off during a demonstration run to promote the sport at Claremont Speedway.
But all of that must seem an eternity ago as the little red #21 lines up against state of the art machines that grace the WAORC. BAT buggies imported out of South Africa, State of the art SS Racetech Hustlers, American built Jimco’s, Australian built Southern Cross buggies, Razorbacks and Geiser trucks, you name it this buggy has competed against it. It’s won the WAORRA class championship 3 times, in 2002, 2007 & 2012. If a race car could tell stories, this one would have more than you could hear in a lifetime. Its driver Danni Joyce will have a lot too; she has made a name for herself as a woman driving in a sport dominated by men. Her first time navigating in the car was in 1996 when she was 15 at the famous old Harvey Short Course. She started full time navigating for father Alan Joyce in 2002 and she first took the wheel in 2007 at Mogumber, one of the most daunting and punishing tracks in Western Australia.
But for Danni Joyce there is one story which we want to tell and it happened at the Badgy 250. At an all new track which was described as ‘a proper off road track’ (which is code for bloody rough!) the challenge to get to the finish was about as tough as they come. With a field of nearly 30 competitors and 7 Pro buggies lining up on Saturday morning for prologue it was going to be a tough ask for the crew to nail a good starting spot. Joyce and Pugh attacked the course, locking in 24th outright and 7th in class, not a bad place to start the race from. Saturday afternoon’s section would see 2 laps of the course. Danni got into the groove picking off competitors and moving up to 18th outright and 6th in class, whilst many others failed to finish the section. After bit of prep work and a few beers (only a few) the crew settled into bed early, which is unusual if previous events are anything to go by
Sundays racing was going to be a tough ask, 3 laps of the course followed by a 2 lap section to make up the 250kms of racing would ensure that all competitors were kept on their toes. But since this is the sport of off road racing and anything can and will happen there was always going to be a curveball thrown at Joyce and her team. Just 3 corners in to lap 1 of Sundays first section they lost the exhaust, causing the next 3 laps to be noisier and also limiting the power and revs in 4th gear. But with the never say die spirit that father Al taught her Danni battled on, finishing the section 14th outright and 4th in class. With just 2 laps to go did the crew dare to dream of not just a finish which had been so elusive, but in the top half of an extremely competitive field in the Western Australian Off Road Racing Championship? As they set off on the final 2 laps, the track now resembling the sort of torture test that would destroy most vehicles in a heartbeat they willed the old buggy on through every kilometre. With each passing corner, straight, jump and bump they drew closer to the finish line before finally managing to greet the chequered flag! Danni Joyce and Andrew Pugh had done it! They had managed to finish the event in 12th outright and 4th in class.
The magnitude of this achievement was not lost on the whole off road family with a standing ovation for the team as they pulled into parc ferme. Members from within WAORRA a club which the Joyce’s have been long standing members off rushed to congratulate the team as well as members of all off road clubs who recognised what an achievement just finishing this race was, let alone on the brink of the top 10 outright. Danni’s father Al who prepares and maintains the buggy was as proud as punch, we are pretty sure he promised Danni could have the buggy again for Three Springs in just a few weeks’ time. Catching up with Danni after the race she was quick to note that without the help of long-time friends and crew Gary Howe, John Preece, Wally Debruyn, Blake, Jake and Andrew Pugh results like this wouldn’t be possible and there are probably a lot more she has forgotten. Sponsors of the team Accord Panel & Paint, Vital Signs and Collins Marine help keep these underdogs running and out on track. Danni Joyce and her team are living proof that the sport of off road racing is not just for the guys with the big dollar cars, massive suspension travel and ridiculous horsepower. Every dog has its day and this one, and for Danni, it just happened to be at the Badgy 250