Thumbs up for two Finke winners and 300 volunteers


When Victorians Ian and Shannon Rentsch (pictured) blasted home to win the Tattersalls Finke Desert Race this morning, they got a well-deserved thumbs up.
But the other half of the story is the sensational effort by hundreds of local volunteers, performing tasks ranging from cleaning dunnies to operating the Finke website, year after year, without pay.
Add to that the mechanical skills of dozens of local drivers and riders, building and fine-tuning their machines, and it’s a picture of a can-do town with few rivals.
One of the event’s most ardent supporters since the its start in 1976, Mayor Damien Ryan, gave a proud tally of jobs.
About a dozen people worked on track preparation for months. Another dozen were busy getting the headquarters up to scratch.
On this race weekend, around 20 people were mobilised, including water truck drivers and grader operators, putting the finishing touches to the track, marking it and driving the clearing vehicles.
About 40 flag marshals were needed right along the track.
More than 40 people manned the checkpoints, radioing information back to HQ.
Four people work in the HQ electronic area, and eight in the race control area where the stewards and officials are.
Four people were in the scoring tent, and at least 20 were marking off competitors when they left and returned.
About 40 volunteers were at the Finke checkpoint – the biggest outside Alice Springs – feeding competitors and event workers.
“A further 160 people were spread right across the event, from toilet cleaners, garbage picker-uppers, general helpers, whether they were at the start-finish line, at checkpoints en route or at Finke,” says Mr Ryan.
There were more than 300 volunteers this year.
Last year there were 175 first-time competitors. This year there were more than 200. Only 100 riders have ridden this race more than twice.
Only 21% of the 604 competitors are from the NT – showing the race is a major magnet for interstate and some overseas participants. (The majority of the 91 cars have two competitors in them.)
The age range of riders is 16 to 62. The oldest driver is 60.
The value of some of the racing machines is tipped to be as much as a quarter of a million dollars.
Mr Ryan says the top professionals in the race travel in semi-trailers, criss-crossing the nation from race to race: “They are set up to be away from home for a long time. All of those are very expensive units. There are eight of those here.”
There were 98 media personnel, including a motoring writer from the USA, feeding out TV, print and radio reports around Australia.
A not so good aspect – no fault of the organisers – was the dismal service provided by Telstra: mobile phones and WiFi facilities were critically overstretched, an unforgivable lapse considering the Finke has been a scheduled annual event for 37 years. This made news work extremely difficult.
Queenslander Billy Geddes, in his thirties, surely earned the title “Glutton for Punishment”, competing both legs of the race in a Geiser Brothers Trophy Truck (finishing 7th this morning), and on a KTM 500 motorbike, arriving in Finke in 2 hours and 16 minutes, and riding back to Alice at the time of writing this report.
He is the first ever to accomplish that feat, shuttling in a helicopter between events. “Maybe he’ll start a trend,” says Mr Ryan.


  1. This year’s Finke Desert Race website has to be ranked as the most pathetic ever. It has been impossible for a tremendous number of people in the Alice, around Australia and the world to get results.
    I personally have had people around Australia ring me asking where different riders are placed because they could not get that info from the site.
    I have had to say to each and every one “sorry mate, I am as much in the dark as you”. So, where does that leave me? I am ringing around and finding the same thing. I do believe the Facebook page has quite a few comments regarding this.
    It would be a very good idea for a complete report on the results to be published, not just the finishers, but covering Prologue, Day one and Day two to make up for this failure.
    For the amount of taxpayers’ money that is pumped into this event I think that the committee needs to have a serious look at not having a repeat of this next year.
    Sour grapes on my part? Sure, big time and why not, but I am sure there will be a few condemning me for this insulting comment stating overload on the site etc, etc, as also I am sure that those will be the fortunate few that were able to access the results.

  2. It is disappointing to hear that Mr Rennie is unhappy with our website and was unable to get results. We too were disappointed with the delay in results being on-line given the inordinate amount of time our volunteer IT crew worked on getting this together.
    They successfully built a results system that would be able to provide real time results and progress times for the many thousands of people who follow this event both locally and from around the world.
    Understanding that our system’s primary purpose is to track riders and drivers as a safety mechanism – this worked perfectly and in race control we knew the whereabouts of competitors.
    The secondary purpose is to provide information to the public who are big followers and supporters of the event.
    This information is uploaded to our website however we (along with members of the public) experienced considerable connectivity / accessibility problems.
    We are yet to understand why although we are told that the 3G signal was overloaded.
    This is not something we have any control over and certainly don’t want a repeat during our 40th celebrations in 2015.
    All results are published – not just top 3 in each class. There are multiple results reports.
    Mr Rennie seems to imply that there is a significant amount of taxpayers money pumped into this event. I’d be interested to know what the figure is if he can enlighten me and your readers.
    Anyone at the start line on the weekend will have noticed the difficulties in using their phone; even when calling there were drop outs or non-connectivity.
    We can only hope that the problems we experienced this year will not be with us next year.
    Antony Yoffa
    Finke Desert Race

  3. Mr Yoffa should understand that It is not just myself who is unhappy, but like many things there are but a few who bother to speak up.
    On primary purpose, I am quite sure that race control knows the situation without the website, and if Mr Yoffa wants to know about the organisation’s finances he is in the position to know, not a poor uninformed (or as he would have it implied, misinformed) fool such as I.
    The fact of the matter is the website was not up to scratch for whatever the reason, and the public will be expecting a lot better in 2015.


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