Home » Finke Desert Race is Australia’s most extreme off-road race

Finke Desert Race is Australia’s most extreme off-road race

ALEX LONG:  It’s absolute chaos out there.

SCOTT BACKMAN:  One part there, I was just like, what am I actually doing? You know what I mean? That’s how hectic it was.

ALEX LONG:  Rough as, really rough. Real dusty.

DAVID WALSH:  We cross all sorts of terrain from rock to hard packed to red sand and we reach speeds of over 200 kilometres an hour in the cars and bikes 180 (kilometres an hour). It’s pretty intense.

I’ve been lucky enough for the last three years to come away with the win and looking forward to trying to defend it again this year.

My name is David Walsh. I’m 33 years old and live in Alice Springs. Builder by trade and riding dirt bikes is a part-time hobby.

TEXT ON SCREEN:  Every year, hundreds of people from around the world gather in the heart of central Australia to test their limits in what is widely considered Australia’s most extreme off-road race.

SCOTT BACKMAN:  Last year I had set myself a goal to race another event in Victoria called Hattah and I surprised myself when I finished that race.

As soon as that was done, I sort of fell into a bit of a slump and I was like I need another goal. I said to the wife that I was tossing up the idea of coming to Alice Springs and having a go at Finke and she said absolutely not.

My name is Scott Backman. I’m 34 from Marong in Victoria. An electrician by trade, wife and two kids.

I spend a lot of time watching YouTube footage of the race and she just sees the sheer speed and probably many stories that she’s heard of things going wrong and what can happen.

Some people might look at it and go it’s stupid but it is what I am passionate about. Some people jump out of planes, some play a guitar, some people play football, and I grew up with dirt bikes. Stuff it. Roll the dice.

FINKE RACE ORGANISER:  We have got 50 paramedics and volunteers here over the weekend, three helicopters in the air as well over the next two days chasing the bikes and the cars down.

We expect to take somewhere 20 and 30 people out of here each day – broken legs, broken arms.

DAVID WALSH:  I’m doing the double this year. I’m entering both fields, the car and bike field.

So on race day one, I hop in the car, will race all the way to Finke and one of the helicopter followers are going to pick me up at Finke and bring me back to town. I will jump on the bike and race all the way to Finke again and then repeat it the next day.

I’m fairly confident but there’s a lot of talent out there on the start line. It’s always hard to navigate who is where and how much work someone else has put in.

Now that I have got a win, I don’t really want any other position.

COMPETITOR:  We’re alright. Unfortunately, just came off the gas too early. She just came over. Definitely done something to my arm. We’ll be good, we’ll be back out here.

DAVID WALSH:  We just had one little moment but apart from that it was a pretty clean run and yeah he drove awesomely and then choppered back, got on the bike.

And I knew I had done the hard work in the first 80 so I just wanted to be safe and get down here.

SCOTT BACKMAN:  Definitely probably three or four where I was to the point of being pretty scared. If you’re not scared you’re not going fast enough.

Halfway, 50 per cent done, just same again tomorrow.

RADIO OPERATOR:  Can you hear me?

COMPETITOR:  At about 5 ks down the side of Finke, yeah, we blew two tyres at once.

COMPETITOR:  I reckon the boys are about to put a new world record on how quick they can change a gearbox.

MECHANIC:  Need another inch.

COMPETITOR:  Obviously they are coming in around the hour, 40 mark and the engines are just at full noise for that whole time. So you got expect things are going to break.

ALEX LONG:  Coming through here, literally both legs off. Oh well, whatever happens, happens!

When I was quite young you would get targeted if you were a female. So it did complex things a little bit but it just made me a better rider than I am now.

My name is Alex Long. I’m 31. I live in Alice Springs and I’m a nurse.

My mum actually taught me how to ride from about two or three years old. There’s photos and videos of myself just sitting on the lap of my grandparents riding a bike.

So there’s nine different categories. Some are based on bike size, some are based on age. And as is a female only class. I’ve not experienced anything like this in the whole of Australia.

I have a raced at national and state level and, yeah, nothing can even compare.

DAVID WALSH:  I feel pretty good. So hopefully I can just maintain that gap and get home safe.

RACE COMMENTATOR:  We are away. 12 o’clock exactly. Leaving the line, David Walsh on his way on a mission.

SCOTT BACKMAN:  Out there 130, You are getting head shaken. You are in the dust and you might not be able to see square edges.

DAVID WALSH:  A bit more expectation now whereas the first one was just the pressure on myself. Yeah, don’t want to stuff up and let down the town.

RACING COMMENATOR:  Alice Springs local, four times in a row. David Walsh is your winner.

DAVID WALSH:  Feels pretty cool to still just be on top of the podium. I mean, I’m just a very lucky man. I have a very good team behind me and a very supportive family. So yeah, I’m very lucky.

SCOTT BACKMAN:  I looked at this sort of thing years ago and I did say these people were stupid, crazy and now I’m here.

ALEX LONG:  There’s something incredible about rider and machine just working together.

DAVID WALSH:  I was that kid getting signatures and here I am now, just a little bit of hard work and stick to something that you love, and you’ll get there cause if I can do it, anyone can.