By OSCAR PERRI
It was a record breaking first day of the Tatts Finke Desert Race, with Toby Price the fastest ever time to Finke a car, and Alice Springs local David Walsh the fastest ever on a bike.
The track is in great condition this year and not too dusty, giving competitors good opportunity to put the foot down.
Price was first off the start this morning, and made it to the halfway mark in the race at Finke in just over 1 hour 39 minutes, breaking his previous best time by five minutes, which he set in 2019.
If he is able to keep his lead tomorrow he will become the first person to win both the bike and car events at Finke.
But Price, and navigators Joseph Weining and Mark Dutton, still have to make it back tomorrow, which they have failed to do the last two years after also being first in on day one.
However, he’s managed to set the record in his first Finke in this new car, and expectations are high for the return trip now that Price has had some time behind the wheel.
Walsh (at right) also smashed his race winning 2019 time by just under 10 minutes, coming into Finke in a blistering 1 hour 45 minutes and 34 seconds.
Josh Howells and Eric Hume were the second car in at 1 hour, 41 minutes and 32 seconds, then Beau Robinson and Shane Hutt just 18 seconds slower.
The three cars got to the Day One finish line in the same order on the podium in the prologue event, though the narrow margin between them promises an exciting finish tomorrow morning.
Next to Finke behind Walsh was Jack Simpson, who took out the honours in the prologue yesterday, but has given up a 4 minute 24 second lead to Walsh.
Last year’s third place getter Beau Ralston sits just 33 seconds further back, and the next five riders behind him all finished within a minute of one another.
First timer Liam Walsh showed promise in the prologue to come in fourth, but in the longer race has slipped to tenth, sitting over 10 minutes behind the race leader.
It was looking as though the bikes would be on a delayed start as the whole site was without power and rain began to fall around an hour before the start time, but organisers were able to get backup generators going, getting the schedule back on track.
Before the race, Simpson said he wasn’t expecting anything different from the track to what he’d seen in previous years.
“I’ve done a lot of prep work, a lot of riding up here so, I know what I’m in for so I’m just looking forward to getting out there and having a good, safe ride.
“My chances are good. I know I’ve got the pace and the right setup, so now i’ve just got to pull it off.”
PHOTO AT TOP: Toby Price. Why drive when you can fly.