Injuries drop in record year for cars and bicycles at NT’s Finke Desert Race

Records were broken in the car and bike categories at the iconic Finke Desert Race in Central Australia, held over the long weekend.

The Finke Desert Race is a two-day annual event that sees hundreds of bikes and cars race from Alice Springs to the remote community of Apatula (Finke) and back, on what is billed as the country’s most challenging off-road track.

International motorsport champion Toby Price claimed his eighth King of the Desert title and set a new record for fastest time on four wheels in the two-day event.

Price, along with navigator Jason Duncan, completed the race with a total time of three hours, 21 minutes and 46 seconds.

Price has previously won the race – billed as Australia’s most challenging off-road event – ​​six times on a bike and once in a truck.

“If you D [told] me in 2010 that I would have won this event eight times [by now]”I probably would have laughed at anyone,” Price said.

truck kicks up dirt when taking a tight turn on a race track
Cars tear through the desert at top speed during the Finke Desert Race.ABC Alice Springs: Xavier Martin

“It’s crazy. To get that second win in the truck now and basically have everyone here at the event and at the race it really means something and counts and we’re happy about that.”

The pair competed together in 2018 and 2019, but did not finish the race.

“Third time is a charm. Here we are, we had fun and no problems,” said Duncan.

Solo competitor Aaron James was in second, followed by Brent Martin and Ben Dawson in third.

Third consecutive win on two wheels

Alice Springs rider David Walsh also set a record time, winning his third King of the Desert title in the bike category with a total race time of three hours, 35 minutes and 45 seconds.

Walsh beat Toby Price’s 2016 cycling record by 11 minutes.

man in dirt bike racewear with check and plaque
Alice Springs Champion David Walsh celebrates his third consecutive Finke Desert Race win.ABC Alice Springs: Saskia Mabin

“It feels great to be up front like that. It’s an honor for me,” he said.

“It’s not something I thought I’d ever do as a kid. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunities this race has given me.”

New South Wales rider Jacob Smith took second on the podium in his 13th Finke race, with Western Australian Jack Simpson, just 43 seconds behind, in third.

Competitors praise new safety rules

Spectators had to stand at least 20 meters from the track this year in response to a fatal crash during last year’s race when a vehicle went off the track and crashed into a crowd of spectators, killing 60-year-old Nigel Harris. came to life.

Race organizers warned the event would not go ahead after 2022 if there were another serious accident involving a spectator.

two men sit in camp chairs behind flags that say: "restricted area"
Spectators had to stay at least 20 meters from the track.ABC Alice Springs: Xavier Martin

“Spectators have done a fantastic job of adhering to the conditions,” said second-place car winner Aaron James.

“The race committee has done a fantastic job addressing the issue and as a racer it’s fantastic to be able to race hard without any worries.”

Walsh and Price both noted that the new rules gave them peace of mind while racing.

man with bicycle helmet sitting at the start line of the race, eyes closed
A cyclist prepares for the race at the starting line in Alice Springs.ABC Alice Springs: Xavier Martin

Young girl injured at race track

St John’s Director of Ambulance Services, Andrew Thomas, said the number of injuries at the event was lower than in previous years, and congratulated the race organizers for enforcing new safety standards.

“Unfortunately, there will be people who will break the rules at times, which is disappointing because those measures are there for their safety and that of the participants,” he said.

cars in line at the race start line
About 113 cars took part in this year’s Finke Desert Race.ABC Alice Springs: Xavier Martin

Thomas said St John’s Ambulance staff treated about 30 people during the event.

He said none of the participants had serious head, neck or back injuries.

“Most of the injuries were limb injuries and unfortunately a few fractures,” he said.

Nearly 60 St John’s Ambulance staff were present at the start and finish lines, along the length of the track and in helicopters over the weekend.

Aside from the race, a nine-year-old girl suffered serious injuries when she was hit by a car on a track near where the event took place on Sunday afternoon.

Thomas said the girl suffered head and pelvic injuries and a broken femur.

She was transported to Alice Springs Hospital on Tuesday, where she was in the ICU in stable condition on Tuesday.

Northern Territory police said the driver, a 32-year-old man, was not a participant in the Finke Desert Race and was assisting police with investigations.

On Saturday morning, a man was flown to hospital in Adelaide in critical condition and another left with a serious jaw injury after a head-on collision between the two motorcyclists not involved in the Finke Desert Race.

The accident happened off Maryvale Road, near Finke.

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