Forget Italy, Monaco and Spain, there is only one race you want to focus on in the next two months and that’s the 460km drive on the old Ghan railroad track to the St Tropez of the Northern Territory – Aputula.
But St Tropez doesn’t have the largest police patrol on camels in the world, wasn’t named the tidiest town in the Territory nor has a plentiful groundwater source with good quality water which is disinfected with sodium hypochlorite and monitored monthly for microbes.
Of course, up until a few years ago, Aputula was named Finke and gave its name to the Finke Desert Race in which, last year, 883 people in 332 cars and on 551 bikes (temporarily) arrived in town after 229km.
The next day they did the same thing in reverse. Given, if you are any good at the car or bike in the sand caper it only takes 100 minutes each way, so it doesn’t seem all that hard.
But they tell me it’s the toughest race in the world, that people camp out along the route to see the bike riders when they fall off and that the celebrations in Alice Springs the night before and the night of the finish are pretty epic – and that you can see the Shane van Gisbergen of sand racing, Toby Price, getting crowned king, queen or other royalty of the desert (again!). Why would you head to Europe?
Now when we say cars, they are naturally not like, say, a 2007-2011 Honda CRV. This is probably a good thing since in the USA, 563,000 of the CRVs are being recalled because the rear trailing arm can fall off due to excessive corrosion.
I asked Honda Australia about whether your local CRV might have bits falling off. Ms Honda promptly replied: “Honda Australia recall vehicles as advised by Honda Motor, in line with the DITRDCA (Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications and the Arts) Policy and FCAI Guidelines.
“Information on current recalls under way in Australia is available from the DITRDCA website.” So, there you go, Honda CRV owners.
“Despite numerous consumer complaints, Honda has failed to issue a recall on 2022-2023 Civics and the suit accuses the automaker of actively concealing information about the defect from the public while it continues to sell defective vehicles,” the lawsuits says.
On the other hand: “Honda Civic for the US market is manufactured in a separate factory to those manufactured for the Australian market. Honda Australia has not been notified of any issue effecting 2022-2023 Honda Civic in Australia.” All good here then.
Most of the Finke racing cars are brands you’ve never heard of. For instance, TP (Toby Price) is back in his Mitsubishi TSCO Trophy Truck 3600cc. Except it not really a Japanese import.
And it’s $700k more than your Pajero. No, TP’s truck is a fibreglass body with the Mitsubishi name on it, on top of a TSCO Racing chassis.
TSCO like JIMCO and Alumicraft build big mothers (and often fathers and others) that come with 750kw engines (non-electric), 1m of travel in the wheels, sequential gearboxes and are about 1m longer and wider than a Honda. It also builds buggies that look like the creatures from the documentary Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, with names like Canam X3 and Rush, the Australian Ikea of buggy racing.
The truck comes in a flat cardboard box with “an easy numbering system that gives you everything you need to build this truck to create your race ready Rush Truck” at home. All these vehicles are built to do is go very, very fast in red dust. Red dust that can actually swallow unsuspecting cars and bikes.
TP was thinking about entering both the bike and car comps. He’s done it before. Drive to Finke. Chopper back and bike down to Finke. Repeat on the way back and try to win both.
Ford has taken my advice and entered the Raptor that took out a class win in Mexico’s Baja 1000. Yup it was the only entrant in that class. Hamo has been talking to me about this strategy. Someone paid $1.8m for Paul Walker’s Fast and Furious Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R by Kaizo to enter it in the Finke but I’m told the shipping cost from soap dodger land to the Alice was too high.
Of course, our money is on the thoroughbreds. Like Col Desbrow’s Commodore Ute and reader 15, Richard Mcnay’s VY Commodore Ute.
Like the old bloke and me, Richard is driving his race car to and from the track. In Mac’s case from Geelong to Alice, compete in the Finke then turn around and drive the car back to Geelong (Swags in the back for accommodation).
Now we tried to get some more info on the Finke but race organisers were tied up with the coronial inquest into the death of 60-year-old spectator Nigel Harris during the 2021 rally.
This week counsel assisting the Coroner, Jodi Truman said: “I submit that the evidence is clear that at least since September 2018, and likely before then, both Motorsport Australia and Finke Desert Race Inc knew it was not uncommon at all for spectators to be close to the track and to be in locations considered dangerous.”
Coroner Elisabeth Armitage said she was concerned about the level of secrecy around safety by Motorsport Australia.
“By that I mean marking documents as confidential, highly confidential, privileged and legally privileged,” she said.
“I’m also concerned about the failure to minute the discussions in the meetings which addressed safety issues and I was concerned that was potentially a deliberate endeavour to have secrecy around those discussions and those issues.”