BLOG – TAKING ON THE FINKE DESERT RACE SOLO
Fancy taking on Australia’s greatest and fastest desert race? A point-to-point blast covering over 450 kilometres in two days. Currently travelling around the world in his Races 2 Places adventure of a lifetime on his KTM 690RR, Lyndon Poskitt signed up for the 40th edition of the race. Here’s how he got on…
Having planned to do the Australian Safari as the Australasian race on my Races to Places travels around the world, I was disappointed to hear that the 2015 edition was at jeopardy, the reality being that it would not run. So, when I was at the Japanese National Cross Country Round in Nagano in 2014 I met an Aussie guy named Kye Anderson and discussed my options with him. He said there was a race called the Finke and that it was “off the hook”, sounds perfect! It was the 40th Anniversary of the race and was set to be the biggest ever.
When the entries opened the day after Australia day, all 600 bike places were sold out in just 3 hours.
So what is the Finke, in simple terms it is a two-day sprint in the middle of Australia. Stage 1 runs from Alice Springs to a very small village called Finke and stage 2 is exactly the same track in return.
It follows the course of the old railway but unfortunately due to years of beating on it, it’s far from as smooth as a railway. It’s located in the middle of Australia, just to one side of the Simpson desert. The race is run in June as it simply would not be possible in the summer months due to extreme heat.
Having only managed to extract my bike from Aussie quarantine two days before the race, I had to ride 1500km in one day to get to the race start and then fettle my well ridden steed for the race. The small town of Alice was a wash with 600 race bikes and their support crews not to mention the 200 trophy trucks, buggies, side-by-sides, quads and their support crews. It was mental, everywhere you turned to eat, drink or sleep there were racers.
Sign on and scrutineering was all well organised and all the vehicles were stored in a well lit, indoor parc ferme for the public to view. Yes they were big sheds. My bike got lots of attention as it was the biggest machine in the entire field, Basil, my KTM690RR travel partner.
To seed all the riders for stage one there is a Prologue, this is an 8km thrash around a small dirt track, no jumps, just a bit like flat track but lots of opportunity to crash, as many did. I set a good solid time with no drama, seeding me mid pack for day one.
When race day came, the nerves set it and the shear size of the race and its following became apparent. 15000 spectators lined the course, helicopters hovered and fire breathing V8’s roared from the line, it was race day for sure. Once the cars had all cleared the course in the morning, the bikes hit the course just after lunch. This was a bugger on day one because the sun was behind us, making it difficult to see the tracks features.
The easiest way to describe the roughness of the track is by saying it’s the longest motocross race I have ever done! Imagine an unprepared MX track without too many jumps and then stretch it out over 226km. That’s it.
The dust was insane and many people suffered an early bath by trying to ride through it. The whoops were brutal, relentless, no break and no rhythm, especially on the big heavy bike. There were two fuel stops along the way, but since I’m travelling around the world solo, I had no support crew so I just put 28 litres in the bike and did the full stretch both ways, without stopping. I posted a 3hr 37minute time on day one, which put me in the middle of the pack for day two. But to put this into perspective, Toby Price did it twice as fast and in half the time. He is an alien for sure!
The spectators were top notch, probably some of the best I’ve seen around the world, waving everything from flags and naked blow up dolls, shouting and screaming. I even saw some duded dressed as a banana and one set of fans went to the trouble of setting up their own pub on the side of the track. I was tempted to stop for a pint!
The overnight camp in Finke is just like a Dakar bivouac but with campfires to stay warm and fire works for added entertainment. Lots of parties and machine fettling made for a good night.
My morning alarm clock for day 2 was the sound of the leading truck hitting the track at sunrise. I want to wake to that sound every day – it would make getting up much easier. With a good clear run on day one, I just had to do the same for my finishers peg.
I made sure I got the hole shot from my row of 10 and had a dust free fun for a good bit. Keeping it clean, I rode faster on day two until I crashed in the whoops – just a reminder to ride within my limits. With 30 km to go on day two my lower back was aching so bad from standing through all the whoops. I was ready for the finish. Clocking 3hrs and 30mins from the start, I yanked a huge stand up wheelie over the finish line, improving on day 1 by 7 minutes.
Overall, Finke was a great experience, one to remember and definitely not a walk in the park. My Aussie mate was right when he said it was “off-the-hook”. Put it on your bucket list…