Saturday, July 13, 2024

Toby Price, David Walsh continue Finke Desert Race reigns

Toby Price is the undisputed king of Finke Desert Race, and he did little to disprove that in the 2023 edition as he notched his record ninth victory and third in a row in the Cars category.

Price’s TSCO Mitsubishi Triton Trophy Truck has long been a juggernaut in Australia’s premier off-road event, and it still lived up to that descriptor as he and Jason Duncan led the Prologue by over two seconds, doubled the advantage on Saturday, then completed the clean sweep on Sunday. Beau Robinson tailed Price in the Prologue but lost ground in Day 1 after having to stop to change a drive belt. His brother Travis Robinson finished second that day, but neither were able to make up the ground to Price. Greg Gartner finished runner-up in Day 2 to place second overall, trailing by six minutes.

“To get my first win was a dream come true, and then to say I have 9 is wild,” wrote Price.

Six of Price’s Finke wins came in Bikes before switching to a truck in 2021, where he has dominated since. The win also provides a strong rebound for Price’s desert racing on the opposite side of the Pacific, having been forced to retire from the first two SCORE International legs in Baja California with mechanical failure. His SCORE programme is run alongside Paul Weel, who bowed out with a vibration on Saturday before bouncing back with a sixth outright on Sunday, though the former eliminated him from the general classification.

Like Price, David Walsh extended his control over the Bikes with a fourth consecutive win. After finishing fourth in the Prologue behind Jacob Smith, Callum Norton, and Korey McMahon, Walsh claimed the first day as he beat Norton by two minutes. Norton returned the favour on Sunday as Walsh settled for third, but the former could not close the gap as his time of 3:37:42 was slightly under two minutes shy of Walsh. Walsh also recorded his ninth career podium finish at Finke, the second most of all time behind Stephen Greenfield‘s ten.

The victory capped off would have been a busy weekend for Walsh, who opened the race on four wheels as the navigator for Brent Smoothy until they had to exit for mechanical reasons.

Brad Lovell brought his 2022 Baja 1000 class-winning Ford Ranger Raptor back to Australia for Finke; although the truck’s only prior racing experience was in Baja, it was co-developed in Australia by Ford Performance and Supercars team Kelly Racing. With his sons Adam and Byam Lovell by his side, the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Famer won the Production 4WD class; Adam Lovell has also started a racing career of his own, running the SCORE season opener in San Felipe as Brad called the shots.

Neither of the two Performance 2WD entries, Perry Compton and Richard McNay, were classified; Compton suffered a massive crash in the Prologue after getting too much air down a straight and flipping his Holden Colorado, while McNay did not finish Saturday but did on Sunday. SxS Turbo drivers Keith McReynolds and Glenn Brinkmann both rolled their Can-Ams as the former overshot the final jump in Day 1 while the latter hit the side of the road the following day.

Much of the buildup to the race was overshadowed by a deadlock between race organisers and Cars sanctioning body Motorsport Australia, who were reluctant to issue a permit amid spectator safety concerns. Motorsport Australia eventually approved the permit on the condition of improved safety measures like requiring them to stand at least thirty metres back from the course.

“All spectators were amazing at following the new 30m rule,” Brinkman commented. “Thanks for making the race happen.”

Class winners

Cars

Class Overall Finish Number Driver Co-Driver Vehicle Day 1 Time Day 2 Time Total Time
Extreme 2WD 1 487 Toby Price Jason Duncan Mitsubishi TSCO Trophy Truck 1:38:35.389 1:43:11.239 3:21:46.628
Extreme 4WD 8 897 Phil Lovett Luke Stanley Racer Engineering 4WD 1:50:41.040 1:50:24.388 3:41:05.428
Performance 2WD N/A N/A No Finishers N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Pro Buggy 3 13 Travis Robinson Andrew Pinto Jimco Aussie Special 1:42:19.723 1:51:54.891 3:34:14.614
Production 4WD 73 773 Brad Lovell Byam Lovell Ford Ranger Raptor 3:05:11.457 2:51:18.711 5:56:30.168
Prolite Buggy 4 120 Brent Martin Andrew DeSimone Jimco Aussie Special 1:46:49.121 1:47:36.156 3:34:25.277
SportsLite 17 1018 Sam Bentley Hannah Bentley Racer Engineering Buggy 2:03:47.929 2:03:27.315 4:07:15.244
Super 1650 Buggy 41 210 Brad Geraghty Courtney Geraghty TinyBuilt GSXR4 2:25:44.311 2:18:32.551 4:44:16.862
SxS Sport 66 6634 John White Jack Briggs Honda Talon 2:50:19.838 2:48:44.536 5:39:04.374
SxS Turbo 16 601 James Cook Mitchell Aucote Can-Am X3 2:02:57.677 2:03:46.955 4:06:44.632

Bikes

Class Overall Finish Number Rider Bike Day 1 Time Day 2 Time Total Time
251cc and Above 30 133 Mitchell Outram KTM 300 XC 2:13:31.006 2:13:41.376 4:27:12.382
451cc and Above 1 1 David Walsh KTM 500 EXC-F 1:46:25.832 1:49:23.071 3:35:48.903
Up to 250cc Two Stroke 61 343 Blake Spreadborough KTM 250 EXC 2:22:40.961 2:27:00.612 4:49:41.573
Up to 250cc Four Stroke 26 499 Lachlan Spilsbury KTM 250 SX-F 2:14:55.515 2:09:54.292 4:24:49.807
251cc–450cc Four Stroke 4 4 Korey McMahon GasGas MC450 1:50:36.876 1:50:36.721 3:41:13.597
35–44 Years 9 9 Ben Grabham KTM 500 EXC 1:53:05.442 1:54:19.151 3:47:24.593
45–54 Years 67 736 Mark Blake KTM 500 EXC 2:27:09.462 2:25:29.868 4:52:39.320
55 Years and Over 115 898 Warren Zerna KTM 300 XC 2:41:13.934 2:38:30.767 5:19:44.701
Women 149 939 Taylah Maurice Honda CRF250RX 2:46:43.362 2:47:42.439 5:34:25.801
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