The KTM Desert Racing Team’s first official outing may well be its most important, as this weekend’s 39th running of the Finke Desert Race bursts into action between Alice Springs and the township of Finke.
The 480-kilometre, two-day journey from Alice Springs South to Finke and back is a unique test of rider and motorcycle – and simply the biggest, most high profile event on the Aussie desert racing calendar.
Led by four-time Finke winner Ben Grabham, the KTM factory team also comprises dual winner Toby Price and new face Ivan Long, the talented South Australian who finished fifth outright in 2013 as a privateer.
All three will ride KTM’s off-road flagship, the 500 EXC, and while both Price and Long are coming off niggling injuries, both have pre-run well and all three are optimistic about their outright prospects in the race, which sees a Saturday Prologue before the race down on Sunday, and the trip back on the Monday Queen’s Birthday holiday.
KTM stocks will be boosted by young gun Wayde Carter, the 2013 Australian junior motocross champion now a young senior and aspiring desert racer, and looking in excellent form aboard his KTM 250 SX.
The Alice Springs-based Branford Desert Racing Team will feature 26-year-old 2006 winner Ryan Branford on a KTM 450 SX-F, as well as similarly-mounted Kenny Armstead and his twin brother Robbie Armstead (KTM 250 SX-F).
Wayde Carter – “I’ve done Hattah the last 6 years and I’ve always wanted to do Finke, and hearing how great it is here and how good the people are I thought I would give it a crack when I turned senior, so here I am. I’m bloody excited to see what it will be like in the race. I’ve done some testing with Grabbo, Pricey, and all the mechanics so that was an awesome help I would have been lost without. A huge thanks to them. Dad’s got a bit of experience with Finke too. It’s a lot different to Hattah, the sand up here is a lot more bull-dusty and the whoops are a lot more stretched out and there aren’t as many turns. The 250SX has a bit more bottom and mid and I’ve geared it as high as I can – hopefully it will pull it! I’d like to put the KTM on the podium, so we’ll see how I can do.”
Ryan Branford – “Last year I had a pretty dud run and thought about pulling the pin, but now I’ve upped the training, put in a lot of hard work, lost 20-odd kilos and I think I’ve found the form I had probably three or four years ago. I think it’s put me back in the mix to compete with the top five guys, so now I figure I might hang around until the 40th anniversary of the Finke next year.
I was the last local to win here, and I still get a lot of pressure from locals thinking that I should still be on top. This year I’m riding the Branford Desert Racing Team KTM 450 SX-F alongside Kenny Armstead on another one and Robbie Armstead and a 250 SX-F. She’s going to be a race of attrition of man and bike this year from what I’ve seen lately; the track is pretty rough – it’s starting to remind me of what it was 4 or 5 years ago. A lot of bulldust is starting to resurface, and there are a lot of big square edges so it’s going to be pretty testing physically.”
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