After two exciting rounds to open 2023, the premier event of the Polaris Motorsport Australia Off Road Championship (AORC) has arrived – the Tatts Finke Desert Race.
A huge field of 131 crews will take on the famous race, where they will tackle the ever-challenging Australian conditions from Alice Springs to the Aputula community at Finke, and back again across three days.
Sharing the event with more than 450 bikes, the weekend will undoubtedly serve up a dish of drama, thrills, spills, heartache, and a King of the Desert.
Reigning winner Toby Price will enter as the clear favourite behind the wheel of his Mitsubishi TSCO Trophy Truck, and the Queenslander will be hoping to be making it three wins.
Standing in his way is a star-studded collection of drivers, all of whom are capable of winning the race.
Headlining that talent pool is current AORC points leader Travis Robinson.
Although the West Australian has been away from the sport for a handful of years, he has enjoyed a remarkable lead up to this weekend with two outright AORC podiums at the Gold City 450 and Pooncarie Desert Dash.
His brother Beau, who makes his grand return to the AORC this weekend and will be in contention for the victory, was proud of Travis and was hopeful his strong start to the season would continue.
“I’m obviously extremely happy for Trav having such a good season so far – he has done an awesome job,” Beau explained.
“With that said, he is a rival this weekend and I will be doing everything I can to win it myself – but I hope he does well.
“I will do anything in my power to help Travis win the championship, and Finke for that matter.”
In addition to Price and the two Robinson brothers, Josh Howells will be a big contender again – as are reigning AORC champion Ryan Taylor, and Pooncarie Desert Dash podium getter Mel Brandle.
Making their first appearance for the 2023 season are a host of potential victors such as Shannon Rentsch, Mark Burrows, Aaron James, Greg Gartner, Andrew Mowles, Paul Weel, Brent Smoothy and David Fellows.
While the above superstars all come from a variety of classes such as Extreme 2WD, Pro Buggy and Prolites, the biggest field by a long way is the SXS Pro class.
Leading the 45-car charge is reigning SXS champion James Cook, who will be itching to get that ever-important Finke win under his belt.
“We have won the SXS title, and we won an outright championship round – but a class victory at Finke is the ultimate goal,” Cook said.
“We would love to finish Finke and to finish it well. Hopefully that gets us on our way to bring home the second championship – that would mean the world to me.”
Cook will have plenty of challengers to deal with, including current points leader Glenn Brinkman, Jeff McNiven and last year’s winner Peter Carr being amongst those who will be the big challengers.
The event kicks off on the morning of at 7am on Saturday where crews will battle for the ever-important starting place in Method Race Wheels Prologue.
Crews will have the rest of Saturday to think about their position as they head down to Finke on Sunday morning at 7am ACST for the first race day of the event.
On Monday morning, the crews begin their return to Alice Springs where the 2023 King of the Desert will be crowned.
Before the action gets underway though, the town of Alice Springs will come alive with the highly anticipated Todd Mall Street Party on Thursday evening and the festival-like Scrutineering at the Start/Finish line complex on Friday.
Spectators are welcome to attend the event, however attendees are required to follow all implemented safety measures, including always standing 30 metres away from the track and obeying spectator ‘No Go’ zones.
The Tatts Finke Desert Race serves as the third round of the 2023 AORC season and takes place in Alice Springs and Finke on 8-12 June.