Branford proud of Finke journey

Being a key figure in organising an event can always be a demanding job for people, especially if it’s on a national scale.

Just ask Kelsey Branford, who is the Vice President of the committee behind one of the biggest races on the Australian motorsport calendar, and one of the biggest off road events in the world.

The Tatts Finke Desert Race is an incredible spectacle, which features more than 750 entrants who race from Alice Springs to the remote town of Finke, whilst battling the unforgiving conditions of the Australian red desert.

Over the past few years, the event has been as popular as a Beatles concert with entry capacity often reached within an hour, sometimes minutes, after opening.

But it didn’t used to be as popular as it is now, in fact when Branford joined 20 years ago, it was a shadow of what it has since become.

“My family was always involved with the Alice Springs Off Road Racing Club and dad raced in the first ever Finke race that had cars in it, so once I got old enough, me joining the committee was inevitable,” Branford said.

“Eventually I joined in 2002 and have done many roles since. Currently I am organising merchandise, marketing, competitor relations and information, as well as looking after income streams and sponsorship.

“Every week, there is something to do, but it’s grown massively since I joined, which was the same year the Antony Yoffa became President.

“At that point, we had just $500 in the bank and things were looking a bit dire. The event had suffered financially and was struggling to grow. Now we turn over a lot more.

“I am so proud to see how far it’s come in that time. Everyone who has helped and volunteered on the event in the past 20 years deserves credit for its uprise.”

When Branford joined all those years ago, there were hardly any women on the committee or volunteering for the event as a whole.

However, one of the women involved in the event in Nina Hargrave was an extremely important figure organising the regularity part of the race. Not only did she prove influential to the event, but also to Branford’s development.

The experienced Hargrave took a young Branford under her wing, taught her the ropes and groomed her into be the one who would eventually replacing her.

With Yoffa also as a mentor for Branford throughout the past two decades, it’s no surprise that she has become a highly respected member amongst her colleagues.

Now as she hopes other women will get involved, Branford believes the sport is heading in the right direction to inspire diversity.

“I think sports are now starting to recognise that they’re missing out on half the population when they don’t actively try to engage women in their sport,” Branford explained.

“You really do need to have 100 per cent of the population able to compete at the highest level. That’s how you become popular and have a whole new participant set.

“I think motorsport is getting better. We have seen some really good women initiatives coming out of Motorsport Australia.

“If there is a continuation of that and young girls get involved, then there is no end as to where motorsport can become.”

The Finke Desert Race takes place in Alice Springs on 10-14 June with car entries to open at 9.30 ACST on Tuesday 9 March.