Boasting the biggest line up in its 40 year history, the race for the 2015 Tatts Finke Desert Race title is certainly going to be hot. For some, the landmark year will be their first the journey to the red centre, while others having been making the trek for decades in search of an elusive King of the Desert title. The 134 strong entry list in the Auto division is jammed with Finke royalty, all of which are hungrier than ever to add another title to their mantelpiece.
The reigning Kings of the Desert, Shannon and Ian Rentsch are back to defend their title in the Australian Championship winning Jimco. Rentsch clocked up his first win in 2005, followed by another in 2006 driving his signature SR20 turbo charged Chenowth and despite coming close on a number of occasions had to wait until 2014 to wrap up win number three.
After victories in a two seat V8 Jimco with Ben Chivell in 2007 and a solo win in 2013 piloting his twin turbo Racer Probuggy in 2013, Hayden Bentley is targeting the chequered flag in yet another configuration this year. Unleashing the Toyota V8 powered Racer Engineering Trophy Truck he has prepared in the USA with Dale Dondel in a bid to add the 40th anniversary trophy to his collection.
Dave Fellows and the Finke Desert Race go hand in hand, with the Alice Springs ex-pat sitting on top of the leader board in victories, with 5 as a driver and 1 as a navigator. Fellows last won in 2010 when he put together a three-peat (2008, 2009 and 2010) in Peter Kittle Motorsport colours. In 2015 he hits the track in for Rhodes Racing in another twin turbo V6 Jimco, looking to add a 7th title to his resume.
A long term supporter and five time winner of the Finke Desert Race, Mark Burrows goes down in history as the first driver to beat the bikes in 1999 driving his turbo Honda powered Cougar. A feat which marked the start of a new era, where the race times tumbled into sub-two hour territory each way as the suspension and horsepower of the A-Arm buggies kicked into over drive.
In the late noughties the new wave of trucks had put the dominance of the buggies on notice and 2011 would prove to be the break through year, with Greg Gartner and Jamie Jennings taking the first outright victory in an Extreme 2WD in their Aussie built Ford F150 Trophy Truck. “I quite honestly never thought it would be achievable. I thought we could get close but the luck was on our side. Even a finish is good up here, let alone where we are at the moment. It’s fantastic!” said Gartner at the finish line that year.
The sweet spot for the trucks continued in 2012, with Brad Gallard and Scott Modistach taking victory in their #454 Chevy powered Geiser Truck in their seventh attempt. Gallard returns in 2015 behind the wheel of the TRD V8 powered Peter Kittle Motorsport Jimco Trophy Truck, while Modistach will take the reigns of the Geiser for the first time at Finke.
In the bike field joining three times Moto King (2010, 2012, 2014) and Dakar ace, Toby Price on the start line will be Phil Lovett (1981, 1982, 1985), Rick Hall (1999, 2002), Darren Griffiths (2003), and Todd Smith (2013). While on four wheels, Victorian ATV rider, Mitch Van Vliet will be returning to Finke targeting an ATV three peat on his Yamaha.