Finishing the Tatts Finke Desert Race is often considered one of the most challenging endeavours in Australian off road, and winning it is even harder.
However, every year, there is always one crew who will etch their name into the Finke history, while many others are left wondering about what could have been.
Many have tried to conquer the desert, and many have failed. Yet there have also been those who have succeeded time and time again.
Shannon Rentsch is one of those to have won it, and comfortably too. The nine-time BFGoodrich Motorsport Australia Off Road Champion (AORC) has claimed the King of the Desert title on a record six occasions, with his father Ian in the navigator’s seat. Their most recent success came in 2018.
Jack Rhodes finally broke his drought the year after – with the South Australian standing on the side of the podium many times before, but never the top step.
There is no secret formula to winning this race. Many believe they know how to do it, although the execution of a plan is far harder than the development of it.
This year, popular competitor Greg Gartner celebrates his 10-year anniversary of when he took out this popular event for the first and only time of his illustrious off road career.
Behind the wheel of his highly recognisable Trophy Truck, Gartner enters the race in fine form and one of the contenders likely to be in the hunt for a victory.
Finishing in second place behind Josh Howells at April’s Cobb & Co Hotel St George 399, and winning the 2019 Hindmarsh Shire Rainbow Desert Enduro, there will certainly be an expectation from Gartner’s camp to do well.
Gartner believes there are four key steps to get the best possible chance to cross the line first.
“Good preparation is highly important. In our case, we strip the Trophy Truck entirely so we can go through everything, right down to the nuts and bolts, and make sure it’s in good shape. Right now, we have no motor, no transmission, no rear – all of this will be rebuilt so the truck is 100 per cent ready,” Gartner said.
“Secondly, you need to have the best team around you as the logistics of Finke are quite technical. This team needs to be with you at all times as well. There needs to be one crew in Alice making sure you’re all good, and then another crew in Finke so you can prep for the next day.
“The third is that you must have your vehicle set up for the whoops and getting over them as quickly as you can. In 2011, we didn’t focus on this and on the way down to Finke we almost had to retire eight times because the rear was too soft and bottoming out.
“As soon as we made it to Finke, our pure focus was to fix that issue and our solution was to compress the rear bypasses as much as we could. Although it was a guess, it turned out to be the right move and we pushed it even harder on the way up to come home with the win.
“Finally, a really important part to winning Finke is Prologue. Of course it’s important at every event – but this race in particular, the dust is terrible even at the best of times. So a clean run means a dust free run and a potential win.”
Gartner and co-driver Jamie Jennings are just one crew part of the record 175 cars to compete in the AORC’s second round.
Starting in Alice Springs, crews take on the harsh Australian desert as they drive down to the rural town of Finke, before making their way back up the next day.
The Tatts Finke Desert Race takes place on 11–14 June.