Les Siviour – an accidental off-road champion

To celebrate the Nissan Patrol’s 70th birthday, Nissan is highlighting the career of one of the nameplate’s most successful competition drivers, Les Siviour.

Siviour is ranked among the most successful off-road drivers in Australian history but the Griffith, NSW-based rice farmer’s racing career began completely by accident. Attending his first race as a spectator, the organisers invited fans to lap the off-road circuit the day ahead of the competition. Siviour and his mate climbed into his wife’s car and set off for an exhibition lap.

Despite having never seen the off-road course before, and that he was driving a standard Nissan Patrol with no racing modifications, the lead-footed farmer was clocking times that would have put him alongside the pro drivers on race day.

“I did it in Jan’s shopping car, which was a short wheelbase Nissan Patrol, and we did it just as quick as the race cars did,” Siviour said. “Everyone said ‘you should race this thing’. So, the next day we put some numbers on it, ripped the backseat out, and we went out and won our class.”

Decades on, Siviour has won an incredible 17 Australian championships.

“We’ve raced Patrols for 20 years and we’ve won 17 Australian Championships in them. You can put these things up against any other 4WD, and they won’t match it,” he said.

“They’re built like a bloody tank. If I can’t break them, nobody will.”

Off-road racing is among the wildest forms of motorsport on the planet, with circuits that are at least 15km long, and more often than not narrow, twisting, tree-lined tracks filled with corrugations, ruts, jumps and river crossings.

The racing icon hung up his driving gloves in the early 2000s, only to be coaxed out of retirement years later for one final race, and this time with a special navigator sitting alongside him — his daughter, Katie.

Siviour still has his legendary Patrol, stored safely in a shed on his property. Every so often, he tears up an off-road circuit on a private property a few kilometres from his home.

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