When it comes to off road events in Australia, there are none bigger than this weekend’s Tatts Finke Desert Race.
The five-day event, which marks the second round of the BFGoodrich Motorsport Australia Off Road Championship (AORC), sees the best crews from around the country take on one of the toughest challenges the Australian outback has to offer.
The 175 confirmed crews will be tackling more than 450 competitive kilometres across a variety of terrain including sand, dust, rock and river as they make the journey from Alice Springs to Finke and back again.
Many of the AORC’s biggest names have confirmed their position in the great race, and although a large portion of Victorians crews were forced to stay home due to the NT’s border restrictions with Victoria, the pool of talent on the entry list still runs quite deep.
Headlining the entry list are the usual suspects – international superstar Toby Price is one of the most credentialled and the one with the biggest appetite to add yet another string to his golden bow.
After winning Prologue and enjoying a seven minute lead at the end of day one in 2019, the Queenslander’s hopes of going just that one step further and winning the race on four wheels were boosted by the unveiling of his brand new Mitsubishi Trophy Truck earlier this month.
Of course, Price has a number of other contenders within the same class to deal with – West Australian stalwart Beau Robinson keen to claim his maiden title, multiple time Finke champion David Fellows, 2017 winner Brad Gallard and 2011 Finke winner, Greg Gartner, who is looking for his first AORC title after a solid outing at the Cobb & Co St George 399.
From the brute force of the trophy trucks to the powerful pro buggies – the iconic class features just as many drivers who would consider themselves a real shot to stand on the top step of the prestigious podium come Monday morning.
Leading the charge is current AORC leader Josh Howells, who picked up his first ever championship podium at this same event just two years ago. With more experience under his belt this time, Howells remains one of the favourites to make history as one of the youngest to ever win this event.
He is joined by the likes of 2017 AORC Champion Matthew Martin who has made the jump up from Pro-lite, Brett Comiskey, Talbot Cox and another high profile West Australian in Shane Elphinstone.
Outside of the top classes, there are plenty of other individuals who can strike it lucky with previous champion Hayden Bentley leading the Extreme 2WD class and the SXS Turbos once again boasting the largest field of 58 drivers, including Roydn Bailey, Phill Lovett, Greg Campbell, Kye Floyd, Toby Whateley and Simon Evans.
Evans, who resides in Victoria was one of the lucky few to make a two-day border dash alongside son Jackson after the NT border opened to those in regional Victoria this week.
Jackson, who is the reigning champion of the Kincrome SXS Motorsport Australia Championship, was hoping to complete Finke for a second consecutive year and was grateful to have the opportunity to do so.
“It has been a crazy few days, but we are on our way,” Jackson said.
“The messages of support and encouragement have been overwhelming and now we have to take a deep breath and make sure we are ready for the biggest show of the year.
“Events don’t come any cooler than Finke for everyone in Australian off-road racing and we are excited to be going back there.
“Now we just have to make the most of our opportunity – an opportunity we really didn’t think we were going to have until today.”
The official event gets underway on Thursday with the Street Party and Night Markets in Todd Mall from 5pm ACST before Friday’s Scrutineering party takes place at the Start/Finish Line Precinct from 4pm ACST.
On Saturday morning, cars will contest for a cash prize and the all-important top spot in the Method Race Wheels Prologue before heading down to Finke at 8am ACST on Sunday morning. On Monday morning at the same time, they will begin their journey back up to Alice Springs.
Each day of racing will be live streamed via the Tatts Finke Desert Race YouTube Page and live results will be available through the AORC website.
The Tatts Finke Desert Race takes place in Alice Springs and Finke on 10-14 June.
Photos: Terry Hill Photography