Off Road

Toby Price, David Walsh continue Finke Desert Race reigns

3 Mins read
Credit: Brett Hemmings/Red Bull Content Pool

Toby Price is the undisputed king of Finke Desert Race, and he did little to disprove that in the 2023 edition as he notched his record ninth victory and third in a row in the Cars category.

Price’s TSCO Mitsubishi Triton Trophy Truck has long been a juggernaut in Australia’s premier off-road event, and it still lived up to that descriptor as he and Jason Duncan led the Prologue by over two seconds, doubled the advantage on Saturday, then completed the clean sweep on Sunday. Beau Robinson tailed Price in the Prologue but lost ground in Day 1 after having to stop to change a drive belt. His brother Travis Robinson finished second that day, but neither were able to make up the ground to Price. Greg Gartner finished runner-up in Day 2 to place second overall, trailing by six minutes.

“To get my first win was a dream come true, and then to say I have 9 is wild,” wrote Price.

Six of Price’s Finke wins came in Bikes before switching to a truck in 2021, where he has dominated since. The win also provides a strong rebound for Price’s desert racing on the opposite side of the Pacific, having been forced to retire from the first two SCORE International legs in Baja California with mechanical failure. His SCORE programme is run alongside Paul Weel, who bowed out with a vibration on Saturday before bouncing back with a sixth outright on Sunday, though the former eliminated him from the general classification.

Like Price, David Walsh extended his control over the Bikes with a fourth consecutive win. After finishing fourth in the Prologue behind Jacob Smith, Callum Norton, and Korey McMahon, Smith’s momentum was hampered on the first day when Norton crashed into him after mistiming his jump at the start, which enabled Walsh to pull ahead and beat Norton by two minutes. Norton returned the favour on Sunday as Walsh settled for third, but the former could not close the gap as his time of 3:37:42 was slightly under two minutes shy of his opponent. Walsh also recorded his ninth career podium finish at Finke, the second most of all time behind Stephen Greenfield‘s ten.

The victory capped off would have been a busy weekend for Walsh, who opened the race on four wheels as the navigator for Brent Smoothy until they had to exit for mechanical reasons.

Brad Lovell brought his 2022 Baja 1000 class-winning Ford Ranger Raptor back to Australia for Finke; although the truck’s only prior racing experience was in Baja, it was co-developed in Australia by Ford Performance and Supercars team Kelly Racing. With his sons Adam and Byam Lovell by his side, the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Famer won the Production 4WD class; Adam Lovell has also started a racing career of his own, running the SCORE season opener in San Felipe as Brad called the shots. The return trip on Sunday from Finke to Alice Springs saw the Ranger Raptor complete the leg in two hours, fifty-one minutes, and eighteen seconds to set the record for fastest single-day run in the Finke Desert Race by a production vehicle.

On the other hand, neither of the two Performance 2WD entries, Perry Compton and Richard McNay, were classified; Compton suffered a massive crash in the Prologue after getting too much air down a straight and flipping his Holden Colorado, while McNay did not finish Saturday but did on Sunday. SxS Turbo drivers Keith McReynolds and Glenn Brinkman both rolled their Can-Ams as the former overshot the final jump in Day 1 while the latter hit the side of the road the following day.

Much of the buildup to the race was overshadowed by a deadlock between race organisers and Cars sanctioning body Motorsport Australia, who were reluctant to issue a permit amid spectator safety concerns. Motorsport Australia eventually approved the permit on the condition of improved safety measures like requiring them to stand at least thirty metres back from the course.

“All spectators were amazing at following the new 30m rule,” Brinkman commented. “Thanks for making the race happen.”

Class winners

Cars

ClassOverall FinishNumberDriverCo-DriverVehicleDay 1 TimeDay 2 TimeTotal Time
Extreme 2WD1487Toby PriceJason DuncanMitsubishi TSCO Trophy Truck1:38:35.3891:43:11.2393:21:46.628
Extreme 4WD8897Phil LovettLuke StanleyRacer Engineering 4WD1:50:41.0401:50:24.3883:41:05.428
Performance 2WDN/AN/ANo FinishersN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
Pro Buggy313Travis RobinsonAndrew PintoJimco Aussie Special1:42:19.7231:51:54.8913:34:14.614
Production 4WD73773Brad LovellByam LovellFord Ranger Raptor3:05:11.4572:51:18.7115:56:30.168
Prolite Buggy4120Brent MartinAndrew DeSimoneJimco Aussie Special1:46:49.1211:47:36.1563:34:25.277
SportsLite171018Sam BentleyHannah BentleyRacer Engineering Buggy2:03:47.9292:03:27.3154:07:15.244
Super 1650 Buggy41210Brad GeraghtyCourtney GeraghtyTinyBuilt GSXR42:25:44.3112:18:32.5514:44:16.862
SxS Sport666634John WhiteJack BriggsHonda Talon2:50:19.8382:48:44.5365:39:04.374
SxS Turbo16601James CookMitchell AucoteCan-Am X32:02:57.6772:03:46.9554:06:44.632

Bikes

ClassOverall FinishNumberRiderBikeDay 1 TimeDay 2 TimeTotal Time
251cc and Above30133Mitchell OutramKTM 300 XC2:13:31.0062:13:41.3764:27:12.382
451cc and Above11David WalshKTM 500 EXC-F1:46:25.8321:49:23.0713:35:48.903
Up to 250cc Two Stroke61343Blake SpreadboroughKTM 250 EXC2:22:40.9612:27:00.6124:49:41.573
Up to 250cc Four Stroke26499Lachlan SpilsburyKTM 250 SX-F2:14:55.5152:09:54.2924:24:49.807
251cc–450cc Four Stroke44Korey McMahonGasGas MC4501:50:36.8761:50:36.7213:41:13.597
35–44 Years99Ben GrabhamKTM 500 EXC1:53:05.4421:54:19.1513:47:24.593
45–54 Years67736Mark BlakeKTM 500 EXC2:27:09.4622:25:29.8684:52:39.320
55 Years and Over115898Warren ZernaKTM 300 XC2:41:13.9342:38:30.7675:19:44.701
Women149939Taylah MauriceHonda CRF250RX2:46:43.3622:47:42.4395:34:25.801
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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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