The 2015 Tatts Finke Desert Race is now only a few weeks away and for most of you only a few days before you head to the red center to give it your best shot at Australia's greatest desert race or should I say race or event in general!
For this blog I thought way back to my first Finke and how I was feeling about this time before the race but then I remembered it was 2004 and thats old news and I had already covered that in Blog 1. So what I did was call in my mate Duncan who was one of the fellas I talked into doing the 2014 Finke and I have mentioned a few times throughout my last few blogs.
Just quickly the reason I want Duncan to tell his story is that he was in the same spot this time last year as most of you guys are right now! Let me tell you Dunc was shitting himself and rightfully so! - Duncan has been a mate for a long time, our dads are best friends from primary school and Dunc is the little brother I never had so as you can imagine like all older brothers I talk him into doing all sorts of things which are not always successful!!! So I guess Dunc was at this time last year wondering if this was yet another laugh for me or an adventure for him? I was hoping for both!
Anyway here is Duncan McCrindle's account of the great race as a full Finke virgin! His only experience was watching last years DVD.
You’re obviously reading this column as you have a genuine interest inentering the Tatts Finke Desert Race but you’re just not sure if your ability will outweigh your ambitions? Well join the club!!! Like, an average C grade motocrosser at best, I too felt incapable of competing in such an event.
However, in this column you will hear it from the Guinea pig’s mouth, the tail of my journey to Alice Springs to compete in Australia’s biggest and most prestigious desert race for the very first time.
For a few years now, a very close friend of mine Vaughan Cumming has been pestering me to enter in the race. For far too longthough, I have never considered myself capable of finishing the event. The thought of riding through 3m deep whoops, over gnarly rocks and in soft sandall at speeds greater than any marked road in Australia for around three hours just didn’t seem achievable to me – probably similar to yourself. Well again like me, consider yourself wrong! The achievable part anyway. After seriously considering entering the race, I was introduced to a bloke
named Joe Grogan, another naïve friend of Vaughan’s who he had also convinced to enter. Knowing I wasn’t the only victim of peer pressure in this circumstance, I finally caved in and decided that 2014 was going to be the year!!!
Having decided in late December 2013 that I was definitely going to enter for 2014, I knew I had a lot of preparation to do! This included setting up my RM-Z450 for desert racing, dropping a few lbs, making a genuine effort to get fit and to get out and start practising. Skipping the minor details, by mid-May I was ready as I was ever going to be. My steed was in a good working order with all the extra but necessary trimmings including steg pegz, a MSC steering damper, long range tank, higher bend handlebars andheavy duty tubes. I had been busting out a sweat on the rowing machine and exercise bike at my local gym roughly 3 nights a week and clocked up a reasonable amount of practise trail riding in sandy conditions. All that was left to do was pack the trailer and to exceed the speed limit to Alice Springs in excitement/fear – I wasn’t too sure at the time!
These are the mates/idiots I went on my Finke Adventure with!
After travelling up the guts of Australia having a blast camping on the side of the road for nearly 3 full days, we finally hit a dirt road leading us out to the track. As we all knew we were getting closer to what we had been preparing for the last 6 months or so, I distinctly remember the three of us going from talking and yahooing to silence and a stomach full of butterflies – still 5 days prior to race day. As we moved onto the access road looking for a good spot to camp for the next two nights, the track became visible as well as other guys getting in some pre-running. The track looked gnarly, tough, dusty, fast, hard and every other descriptive word that can put doubtin your mind!!! However we had arrived and there was nothing left to do but to set up camp and gear up.
On our first day pre-running, we cruised 50kms or so south down the access road from our camp near the 100km bonnet so we could head north on the track as it was after 12noon. By the time we got to Bundooma (140km mark) I had built up fairly decent arm pump from gripping the bars so tight just from riding down the access road – I was that nervous!! However I managed to release some of my nervous energy once we got on the track and found it was less daunting than it looked.
Our second and final day pre-running was definitely more eventful. As we were eating our breakfast at camp around 9oclock, we see the KTM team riders Price, Long and Grabham bombing past also pre-running. The speed that these guys can ride at is just incredible! Soon enough though we were bombing down the track and by the end of the day managed to clock up around 180km!! Next we were back on route to Alice where we would check into our motel, prepare our bikes for scrutineering, prologue and race day 1 and 2.
Come Saturday morning, a whole new cattle of fish emerged as far as nerves were concerned – prologue!!! Everyone entering a one lap hot pursuit trying to get the best starting position they can. Lining up against two other riders you don’t know nor how fast or slow they may be can daunting to say the least, however I finished prologue without any hassles in 237th position.
This is our motel workshop!
Then Sunday, race day 1!!! Sitting on the start line with 500 odd bikes all ready to ride the 226km trek to the other end is a big deal!!! Thinking of everything you’ve done in the past 6months, all the money tied up with this event and time you’ve spent preparing everything just so you and your humble machine can attempt to make it to the other end to turn around and come back the next day just puts a whole new perspective and awe factor on how damn great this event really is!!! And it all starts when the green light illuminates and you blast off down the dusty track as fast as you can.
I managed a pretty good start getting the whole shot into the first corner! Although starting in 237th position, I felt like I was the first bike on the track.
Unfortunately running wide in the second corner, my hot start was short lived and was soon eating dust off three other bikes. Full of adrenalin and riding as fast as my vision would permit, I found by the 30km bonnet I had a good set of pumped up arms and locked up hands, slowing me down to a more realistic pace that I could sustain till the end.
The next 50 odd kms to the first fuel stop went relatively smooth with only a few moments here and there. The dust was bad but adecent cross wind managed to push most of it off the track unless you were close to another rider. Having never before ridden an 80km stretch in a single hit, pulling into the first fuel stop was a relief! Even on our second day of pre-running where we clocked 180km, we had a few stops where we got off the bikes and took our helmets off. In the race however, you don’t quite get those luxuries.
Vaughan had organised the guys on the Branford Desert Racing team to do our pit stops as well as their own top runners. And credit to them, they had my tank filled and wiped the dust off my goggles before I could even get in a mouthful of my camelback and had me hustling on myway in no time!!
Starting to feel some fatigue setting in, I found myself on and off the pace a little more than the first 80km. The endless whoops really does take a toll on the old brain also. Coming round a corner seeing another long straight of whoops after you’ve felt like you’ve already done a years worth of riding really doesn’t get you excited. But you just have a little giggle to yourself and get on with it, and before you know it you’re at the 160km mark and at the second and final fuel stop for day 1!!
Again, the BDR fellas got me refuelled and going quicker than I would have liked, but just stopping and sitting for a minute or two is all you really need. The last leg of the race I found the best and probably the section I rode best/quickest in. I’m not sure whether it was because the finish was near or whether I had just finished cursing in my helmet and got on with it. Counting down the bonnets is a pretty cool feeling also and each one gives you more and more go than ever, especially seeing the 220km bonnet!!! The last 6kms or so definitely feels longer then 6kms, however, seeing the finish line down the end of the long fast straight is just awesome! Knowing you have it all to look forward to again the next day, having completed day one feels like a massive achievement in its own right!!!
Monday, race day 2, went fairly similar to day one in reverse. The start was difficult as having already ridden the day before, however by the first fuel stop whatever was hurting had been loosened up by the whoops. By the second fuel stop you’re pretty sure you hate motorbikes and wish your bike would just blow up so you could stop riding, but for whatever reason you just keep going! Finally coming onto the prologue track for the last few remaining kms you know the finish is close. Again like the finish of day 1, a few kms feels like a lifetime and you feel every bump and rock on the track. The last corner coming onto the finish straight is a bit of a bitter sweet feeling. Sweet that you’ve just successfully finished the county’s biggest desert race however bitter that it was over for another year!
Greeting Vaughan at the end of the start/finish line, the first thing I said to him was “if I had the energy, I’d punch you in the face!” as I was so stiff I struggled to get off my bike! Overall I completed both days in 6 hours and 35 minutes and finished in 192nd position, inside my goal of the top 200. Capping off on the whole experience, I honestly have to say it has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. The shear atmosphere of the event is like no other. What other motorsport event is there where you can camp virtually on the racetrack and ride it at you own free will, or simply spectate the best riders in the world at their given trades? Or what other event attracts 500 odd guys and girls to travel thousands of kms just to a ride their dirt bikes? The answer is none!!! The fact of the matter is there is no other event like Finke!
Yes it is challenging, yes it is tough, yes it costs a fair bit of money and yes it takes a lot of time, organisation and preparation. However it is achievable for everyone and if you’re into dirt bikes and like a challenge, enjoys camping with your buddies or family and like making new lifelong friendships then have a go at Finke!!! You will not be disappointed!!! I guarantee it!!!
Finke is all about mates and family! This me with my dad and Vaughan and his dad before day 2.
Vaughan and I about to head off on the trip back to Alice on Day 2
These bonnets mark out the distance on the track and work as great motivation!