Desert Battle Lines

The battle lines have once again been drawn in the red desert sands, as teams roll into Alice Springs for the 38th Tatts Finke Desert Race being held this weekend. Returning to the Australian Off Road Championship after a break in 2012, the Finke has attracted a high quality field of over 90 buggies, trucks, 4WD’s and UTV’s to battle it out over the famous whoops and sandhills, on the race from Alice Springs to Finke and back. The entry list is packed with Finke Desert Race royalty, with reigning Kings of the Desert, Brad Gallard and Scott Modistach returning alongside former winners, Greg Gartner, David Fellows, Shannon Rentsch, Hayden Bentley and Mark Burrows.

The pre-race atmosphere has been building steadily over the past fortnight as the teams have arrived in Alice Springs for testing and on the eve of the race the atmosphere in town is electric. Greg Gartner became the first truck to win the event in 2011, a feat which was backed up by Brad Gallard in 2012, fuelling the rivalry between the heavy weights of the desert, the trucks and Pro-buggies.

In the trophy truck corner will be 2012 Kings of the Desert, Brad Gallard and Scott Modistach in their Toyo backed Geiser Truck, alongside 2011 victors Greg Gartner and Jamie Jennings who will be pulling the covers off their brand new Aussie Built Ford F-150 Truck for the first time. With V8 power running through their viens, the Gieser trucks of Roe, Robinson and Geddes, alongside the Attard Silverado are guaranteed to hit the ground running and will lock horns with some impressive Aussie built machinery including the Muir and Bohlins Commodore trucks.

The Pro-buggy corner is also stacked with champions ensuring the title fight from Alice Springs to Finke and back will definitely go all ten rounds. 2012 runners up, Matt Coleman and Shawn Teagle are back with the aim of going one place better in 2013, while former Finke winners Mark Burrows, Shannon Rentsch, Hayden Bentley and David Fellows are targeting another King of the Desert Title. The reigning AORC champions Matt Hanson and Leigh Wells will add to the star studded line up in their SMU Snap Jimco, as will Travis Robinson, Andrew Kittle, Macca Kittle, Chris Coulthard, Jack Rhodes and company.

The naturally aspirated 3500cc Prolites have put their more powerful siblings on notice in recent years. Greg Hicks and Shane Braitling stepped onto the podium in 2011, while the Razorbacks of Andrew Mowles and Aaron James have also been within striking distance in the past. Local entries have dominated the Super 1650 Class, with Browning & Tepper the only interstate teams to contest the category. Keijo Kylma is the only entrant in the Sportsman class for 1300cc buggies.

The Performance 2WD category takes on an international flavour, with the Wolf Pack Racing team from China taking the reins of Ross Bohlins 6 litre V8 powered Ford Ranger for the second consecutive year. Scott Gould and Matt Haywood will be aiming to build on his success at the first round of the AORC in WA in their V8 Rodeo, while the Hutton and Youman teams from Queensland will be making their Finke debuts.

Geoff Pickering’s form at Finke is unrivalled in the Production 4WD Class, and he will be targeting another class win in his Mitsubishi Pajero. While the race amongst the Extreme 4WD entrants is wide open, with the diesel powered D-Max of Bruce Garland going toe to toe with the brand new Evo X powered Triton of Clayton Chapman and the V8 powered Hilux of Myles Newbon.

The Tattersall’s Finke Desert Race commences with scrutineering tonight at the Blatherskite Park Showgrounds from 5pm. Recent showers have done little to dampen one of the showcase nights of the year on the offroad racing calendar. Thousands of spectators will pack the exhibition halls to meet the drivers, grab an autographed poster and see the offroad racing machinery before it streaks across the desert.

Racing commences on Saturday morning, with the all important prologue that is used to determine the pole position. The race to kicks off on Sunday June 9th, with the cars blasting away from the start line at 7.30am in Alice Springs and working their way through the checkpoints at Deep Well, Rodinga, Bundooma and Mt Squires on their way to Finke. After a frosty night under the stars, the cars are regrouped at Finke for Mondays return leg to Alice Springs that will commence at 7.30am. With the winning car expected to cross the finish line and claim the “King of the Desert” crown in Alice Springs shortly after 9am.