SSV Xteam. Darrell Knight - Naomi Tillett
Driver: Darrell ‘Bullet’ Knight
He was christened Darrell, but everyone calls him ‘Bullet’ – He’s ridden the four-wheel ATVs (all-terrain vehicles) in places that most wouldn’t dare – the sand dunes of the Simpson Desert, crocodile-infested rivers of Cape York and the icy waste land of Antarctica.
With a list of achievements as long as your arm, the South Aussie ace has been a top contender in off-road competition all around Australia, including; the first motocross race win on a 4X4 quad, smallest capacity (113cc) quad to finish the Finke Desert Race and the highest ever placed 4X4 quad (7th). He’s won State and National Championships in various MX classes, held a lap record at Gillman Speedway for a couple of years, achieved multiple class wins in the ThumbPump 300 and earnt podiums at Kamfari, Condo 750 and the Australasian Safari.
And this year Bullet has put his hand up for something new again... the first SXS (side-by-side) Challenge in the Australian Rally Championship. It’s a four-round, two-make series for SSVs, held in conjunction with the ARC rounds in Victoria, Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales. The SXS Challenge offers competitors a nationwide series for a lot less cost than doing it with a car. While the cars will run on smooth gravel roads, the SSVs will combine parts of the high-speed gravel with their own rugged off-road sections.
Bullet will drive a Can-Am Commander 1000X in this year’s inaugural series. Despite his vast experience with quads though, it’ll be a steep learning curve. He’ll be buckled into a seat instead of standing on foot pegs, surrounded by a roll cage instead of being out in the open and holding a steering wheel instead of handlebars.
Having co-driver Naomi Tillett (see Naomi’s profile, below) calling out the directions will be unfamiliar territory too, but as always he’s up for it.
"BRP’s commitment to quality and innovation means there is always something new and exciting coming off the production line. For me that means more of what I love and I’m sure the SxS Challenge is bound to have a few surprises install,” Bullet said.
Co-Driver: Naomi Tillett
Naomi is one of Australia’s top rally co-drivers. She’s called directions for the best Australian drivers in National and State championship gravel rallies, tarmac rallies, and off-road marathons like the Australasian Safari.
In recent years she’s been the regular co-driver for tarmac rally king Tony Quinn in the awesome 390kW all-wheel drive V.I.P. Petfoods Nissan GTR R35. Their tally of two wins in Australasia’s biggest tarmac rally, Targa Tasmania (2009 and 2011) and a hat-trick in Targa New Zealand (2009 to 2011) is unparalleled.
But, like fellow South Aussie ‘Bullet’, she’s never tackled anything quite like the SXS Challenge before.
“I was a bit nervous at first when I heard about the nickname ‘Bullet’, but he assured me that it’s because he does not wear a peak on his helmet. Still sounds fast to me, but I guess I’ll just have to wait and see!”
Naomi can hold her cool and navigate under extreme racing pressure in any environment she tackles, but she isn’t exactly sure what co-driving in the Can-Am Commander will be like.
“It will be a different experience for both of us,” she said. “Bullet’s used to navigating for himself on a quad bike with a scroll reader that shows major intersections and hazards, but he’s never had someone calling every bend and bump along the way.”
“With all the complexities in rally, it usually takes a while for a driver and co-driver to get their communication working smoothly. Hopefully I can fast track that process and I’m keen to be a big part of making us faster. It will be fun too. With Bullet having to learn all the rally tricks from scratch, we could have any sort of hiccups in the learning process of the first few events.”
While Naomi has incredible high speed experience co-driving in state of the art tarmac and off-road race cars, her biggest challenge in the Can-Am Commander could be simply getting a clear view of her pace notes. With no windows, the Can-Am Commanders open roll cage will be very exposed to the wind, rain, dust and mud.
“I’ll be wearing a full face helmet and a weatherproof suit and my notes will be laminated, but what happens when we drive full speed into a mud bath, is anyone’s guess! Anyway, Bullet tells me the Can-Am Commander is amazingly capable off-road, so I’m looking forward to returning to my off-road rally roots in probably the most fun way possible.”