Despite broken bones and blown engines, Army riders recorded strong results in Australia’s largest off-road desert race last month.
CAPTION: Australian Army soldier Sergeant John Downie (left), from University of New South Wales Regiment, during the 2022 Finke Desert Race, Northern Territory. Story by Corporal Jacob Joseph. Photo by Sergeant John Downie.
The 460km Finke Desert Race is held in the Northern Territory on the June long weekend each year.
More than 600 bikes and cars raced across a sandy track from Alice Springs to the small community of Finke and back, averaging speeds faster than 100km/h.
Lance Corporal Alan Graham, from 10/27 Battalion, Royal South Australian Regiment, was Army’s fastest rider, finishing 46th overall.
Sergeant John Downie, who completed the two-day race for the third time, was the 203rd rider across the line.
With the exception of Sergeant Downie’s 17-year-old son, who suffered a broken collarbone and withdrew, all riders with the Army group finished.
Corporal Warwick Nutt from 5RAR managed to finish after fracturing his tailbone and L1 vertebrae at the end of day one.
“I got nearly all the way to Finke, I hit a rut, the bike came out from underneath me and I ended up on my back,” Corporal Nutt said.
“Once I got riding again and with the rest of my body being sore, I didn’t even really take notice of the pain.”
Sergeant Downie said Army riders, who participate as a team, were unlucky with breakdowns and injuries before and during the endurance race, but their conduct and attitude earned them goodwill from spectators and other teams.
“One of the guys blew up his bike during a practice run,” Sergeant Downie said.
“A KTM Australia manager flew the parts out to us in his personal jet.
“Another guy rode 90kms with a flat tyre and some random spectator happened to have a spare rim and tyre at a fuel checkpoint.
“Being one of the senior guys there, it was brought to my attention that the way our guys conducted themselves was unreal and that they were a credit to the ADF.”
Sergeant Downie said riders were already planning next year’s race and needed more support staff at the end of day one to help riders with their return journey to Alice Springs.