Trio back after Finke Desert Race
THRILLSEEKING Adrian Gillespie, his father Dave and good mate Tony Ritler are back in one piece after surviving Australia’s greatest desert race last month.
The trio travelled to the Northern Territory to take part in the 2010 Tattersall’s Finke Desert Race over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend.
As the southern hemisphere’s largest desert race, first unveiled in 1976, taking part in the epic event was no minor achievement.
The offroad, multi-terrain event ran over two days and traversed territory from Alice Springs through to the small Aputula (Finke) community, crossing the Finke River, believed to be the oldest in the world.
The Gympie three were among a near 600 competitors and raced a gruelling 460 kilometres across harsh and unforgiving landscape.
Just finishing was a huge accomplishment but Dave breathed a huge sigh of relief after an accident on the course had the potential to be fatal.
A new course had competitors racing in dusty conditions, limiting visibility and causing a number of crashes.
Dave crashed and had to be dragged off the track unconscious. He wasn’t able to remember anything about the incident except waking up.
“Dad was dragged off the track and we sat him down for a while, but he couldn’t remember anything about how it happened,” Adrian said.
“I was really proud because he rode the last 100 kilometres and finished the day.”
The near-miss was a timely reminder for the three of the dangers of the race.
Adrian said his mate Ritler enjoyed the experience but wouldn’t be lining up again.
“He really had a good time but he says he has retired and is glad to have done it,” Adrian said.
With the racing being conducted on a modified course, comparing times from the previous year was difficult for competitors.
However, the adventurous three posted quality finishes in their respective fields.
Adrian finished 11th in his class, featuring 40 competitors, while his father was 27th from a field just nudging the 50 mark.
Ritler, meanwhile, came in 28th in his class of 50.
“It was a great result for all of us,” Adrian said.
“I was really proud of how we went because it was a tough race.”
Months of training preceded the trip to the Northern Territory and Adrian said while helpful, a lot was a learning curve on the run during actual race itself.
“My fitness work paid off and put me in good stead but I was still learning as we went,” he said.
“The biggest thing to deal with was all the dust because the visibility at times was so bad you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face.”
The entire experience has been beneficial for Adrian who is now back in training ahead of the Australian Safari in Perth later this year come September.
Held over seven days and covering a staggering 4000 kilometres, Adrian is keen to get back on his bike and stretch himself to his outer limits.
“The Finke Desert Race has been a great lead up for this,” he said.
“It’s really helped my endurance and being physically and mentally strong on the bike.”
With the dust settled for another year, the overall winner for the third consecutive time was David Fellows with co-driver Mark Bergamin in the car section. On bikes, honours went to Toby Price, who became the third competitor in the event’s history to win on his maiden outing.