KTM Australia’s Desert Racing Team has today reaffirmed its status as Kings of the Desert by taking a stunning 1-2 finish in the 2015 Tatts Finke Desert race, with defending Champion Toby Price leading home teammate Tye Simmonds in the prestigious 40th running of the event with Active8 Yamaha’s Josh Green rounding out the podium on the YZ450F.
This year’s 480-kilometre, two-day journey from Alice Springs south to Finke saw approximately 600 motorcycle and 134 car competitors make the journey, as approximately 15,000 spectators camped along the length of the 240 km course.
Toby Price – who finished third on debut in the Dakar Rally in January and currently leads the Australian Off-Road Championships – continued to underline his burgeoning legend status by making his first successful title defence on his trusty KTM 500 EXC, while carrying a foot injury he sustained during pre-running.
Price qualified fastest, took a 4-minute 45 second lead into the overnight camp at Finke and won the fourth Finke Desert Race crown of his career by 6-minutes and 35 seconds. Incredibly, it was the second time Price has won Australia’s fastest Desert race since breaking his neck in April of 2013.
Toby Price – “It definitely wasn’t an easy one on this trip, that’s for sure, but to get that monkey off my back and win back to back is an amazing feeling, and to get win number four is better again. It was a hard slog and I can’t thank the crew here enough, it’s been an awesome effort by everybody. My theory was that if I could get a good run down and pull some gaps, hopefully my way home would be a little bit easier for me, so yesterday I just bit my lip and hung on and went for it. I don’t know whether my foot is cracked or whether there is some ligament damage, but I just know it’s very painful, it’s hard to stand on it, and I had some very messy moments down through the track. I didn’t get on the track at all during the week, I tried to ride a little bit on Thursday but was in a ton of pain so I knew it was gonna’ be tough, but when that green light comes on, the adrenaline kicks in and we want to win Finke. A lot of guys have put too much time and effort in for me just to pull out, and now at the end of the day I’m sitting on top and I’m pretty damn stoked that I kept pushing and went through all that.”
For former motocross pro Tye Simmonds, 2015 was his first Finke and he rode a steep learning curve; qualifying ninth, arriving at Finke in fifth place after setting the fourth-fastest time, and finishing Australia’s biggest off-road race in the runner-up position at his very first attempt.
Tye Simmonds – “I’m over the moon, that’s for sure. She was a hard two days in the office. The goal was to be top five in the Prologue, but the sun was very low… but no excuses, I qualified ninth. My run down kind of sucked, I know everyone got a bit of dust, but I got caught up a couple of times and just couldn’t get through for ages. I came in fifth bike on corrected time and I was fourth starting today, five seconds behind Ivan. I knew I had to put in a lot of effort. I had to cowboy up – just grit your teeth, no matter how much are hurting, you’ve just got to keep on going. Obviously a lot of luck went my way today, but that’s okay. I said after getting down there and I’ve been saying all day today, it’s the stupidest race I’ve ever done! People told me I was going to say that to myself every 10 kilometres, but you keep coming back, and that was the feeling I got crossing the finish line. It was like ‘that was fun; I can’t wait till next year’. If I was surprised by anything, it was how rough it is. It’s indescribable how much the track changes from day to day. The Trophy Trucks and the buggies just make an absolute mess of it, and it’s just ridiculous rough at ridiculous speeds. That’s the only way to put it.”
Active8 Yamalube Yamaha’s Josh Green took third Outright and first in class on his YZ450F. Green started the event by finishing fourth in the prologue which determined the starting order for day one and was hoping to pick up the pace as competition got under way. He did exactly that and moved up the leader board to third place midway through day one and within sight of second place before a steer dampener issue slowed his progress and he had to reduce speed to race safely. He ended day one where he started in fifth place but confident without any issues he could improve his result.
Day two and Green was back into it and with the steering damper working well, Green was able to make up some time on his competitors and he finished in third for the return trip and his combined times gave him third Outright in the prestigious event as well as the class victory in the 251cc to 450cc category.
“Getting on the podium at this event is always pleasing,” Green states. “It is a tough event and so many things can go wrong, from crashing to machine damage to dealing with the dust. It is so easy to make mistakes out there.
“I felt pretty good on both days and I would like to have seen my result if not for the steering dampener not working right. But, everyone has problems in this race and you just have to deal with them as best you can.
“Thanks again to the Active8 Yamaha team for their support. It’s awesome to be part of something where everyone involved gives it there all. Hopefully, next year I can come back and win it for them,” Green ends.
KTM Desert Racing Team rider and a 2014 third-place finisher Ivan Long was desperately unlucky this year. Having rebounded from a sixth place qualifying position to be third at overnight camp in Finke, he set the fastest time on the return leg through Mt Squires, then crashed at eye-watering speed and broke two bones in his hand. Long courageously remounted and rode the remaining 175 km with the loss of only three places, for sixth overall.
Ivan Long – “I’m a bit sore right now, but the morphine is hitting the spot. I’m a little bit bummed, I had a good pace going, and we just wanted to keep a lot of pressure on Walshy in second so he would push his engine hard. I caught up to him in the first 50 kays and I didn’t even see it, it must have been a massive edge on the left hand side of the track, and I hit it in top gear with the throttle wedged open. Next minute I was flying through the air. In another couple of corners I would have him for sure and then I would have just cruised in from there. It was definitely the biggest crash I’ve ever had, but I knew that if I would have pulled out Ben would have called me soft! My heart rate monitor has got a GPS on it so looking forward to finding out exactly how fast I was going when I hit the deck. I ended up third in class and sixth outright, so that’s all right.”
Josh Green’s Yamaha Team mate, Beau Ralston, finished a very respectable seventh place in just his second attempt at Finke. Last year, Ralston was fresh off a broken elbow and had next to no preparation for the event but this year with some experience and some testing under his belt, Ralston was able to finish well inside the top 10 and just behind some of the biggest names in desert racing.
“My goal was to finish inside the top 10 so it was good to get that done,” Ralston explains. “While I got to ride the track last year, with my injury, it wasn’t at full speed and racing at 100% here is a lot different to what I experienced last time.
“I had a pretty smooth run on both days. I changed a shock spring after day one as the track changes a lot when the cars and buggies are on it and it was the right change to make.
“Now that I have been able to race it properly, I feel I will be better prepared to race it next year and give it a real shake,” Ralston said.
With three KTM teammates and their 500 EXCs also first, second and third in the >451cc four-stroke class, team manager Ben Grabham was understandably pleased.
Ben Grabham – “It’s just great to know that all the hard work that we have done and believed in has paid off. It’s always a bit of an unknown because it’s such a brutal race on bikes and on bodies. There’s probably a couple of hundred people that I could actually thank that have helped us along the way in the last 12 months to get this result, so it’s a huge effort. Ninety percent of those people are from KTM, but then we’ve also got our other key people like GDR suspension and MC Steering Dampers and Steg Pegs –they’ve been a huge part of all of my Finke stuff over the years and they’re still there. Toby was a little bit of an unknown with the injury to his foot, but showed he still had plenty of speed, it was just a matter of battling through the pain and I’m pretty stoked to be a part of his fourth win. Longy was pretty pumped this morning and we were watching him from the chopper, hunting Walshy down but the track ended up biting him. I think he was pretty tough to finish to be honest. Tye was the same, he did everything we asked of him all weekend. He was frustrated in the dust yesterday, but he showed a lot of maturity to get down in fourth. Today he was fired up, I could see it in his eyes this morning, he was pretty hungry come home fast. And he definitely got it done. I couldn’t be more pumped for the team and everyone. For Toby and Tye to go one-two, that’s a pretty good effort.”
It was the first of three class victories for KTM, with Nicholas Godde, Andrew Nocera and Iain Steadman finishing first, second and third in the >250cc two-stroke class aboard a trio of KTM 250 SX machines, while South Australian Murray Kurtis won the >250cc two-stroke class aboard his KTM 300 SX.
KTM Factory Support team racer Wayde Carter – who blitzed the 250cc four-stroke ranks on debut in 2014 – was denied the chance to a repeat performance on his KTM 450 EXC, despite sensationally qualifying third fastest in the prologue on Saturday. The 18-year-old crashed early in Sunday’s down leg, and withdrew from the event with a dislocated shoulder.
Active8 Yamaha manager AJ Roberts was pleased with the efforts of his charges.
AJ Roberts – “Josh tried hard all weekend but without a steering dampener working properly it is difficult to race at top speed so to still get on the podium was a great effort. For Beau to finish in seventh is a good achievement. It’s not an easy race and it takes years to work out what it takes and plenty of track time to really feel comfortable out here with only 248 riders finishing out of the 600 starters proves that.”
Yamaha supported riders also excelled in grueling event and female racer Tayla Jones had tongues wagging all weekend. On her Yamaha YZ250FX, Jones raced to an astonishing second in the up to 250cc four stroke class, including men, which in turn gave her 27th place Outright. It was a huge effort form Jones and not lost on the locals who are continually talking about the girl that handed it to the men all weekend.
Australian Safari winner, Rodney Faggotter also pulled down second place in the 35-39 years Masters class behind Mark Sladek.
Yamaha 250 two stroke mounted racer, Nicholas Godde also claimed the win in his class after two days of racing. He took the win by 20 minutes over his nearest rival in an impressive performance on his YZ250.
“It was a great effort by all the Active8 Yamaha team our Yamaha supported riders this weekend at Finke. It is an important event in the off road calendar and a very sort after prize for all the riders. The Active8 team again performed well but like everyone else, we are stunned by the result of Tayla Jones. Congratulations to Tayla and her team as well as Josh, Beau and Rodney on a tremendous effort,” Howard ends.
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