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WELCOME TO FINKE Welcome to Finke: There and Back presented, by Harley-Davidson Australia! No doubt, if you’re here watching our film, you have some connection to the FINKE Desert Race. It’s an off-road, multiterrain two-day race for bikes, cars, buggies and quads that takes riders through desert country from Alice Springs to the small Aputula (Finke) community. And what a ride it is. Director Dylan River is arguably one of the greatest filmmakers that Australia has ever seen. Once you see this film, you are instantly made aware of his extraordinary talents for making a documentary look and feel bigger than a Hollywood Blockbuster. Dylan’s directing and immaculate cinematography skills take you on a visually mesmerising journey - as we watch David Walsh, Daymon Stokie, Isaac Elliott, Luke Hayes, Scruff Hamill and Toby Price make their way across the Finke track. Narrated by Eric Bana, Finke: There and Back is their story. It’s the story of these amazing riders - and what makes them tick. And thanks to Madman Entertainment and our tour partners, we’re taking you along with us on an adventure you’ll never forget! We hope you enjoy Finke: There And Back. Shane Downey Finke: There and Back Tour Manager Adventure Entertainment
PUBLISHER Adventure Entertainment 4
MANAGING EDITOR / DESIGNER Tara Tyrrell
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Log on to : www.adventureentertainment.com/ďŹ nke/win
THIS IS THE FINKE DESERT RACE AND IT IS A RELIGION Runtime: 92mins
For the riders, the spectators and the town of Alice Springs, the Finke Desert Race is more than a race. Finke: There and Back delves below the surface to uncover what makes them tick, what drives them to put their lives on the line when they strap their helmets on. Paraplegic Isaac Elliott is attempting to complete the race that he started a decade earlier. Scruff Hamill, who lives in a shed full of bikes in Sydney, makes the trip to tick off a bucket list event. Meanwhile, the factory race teams at the head of the field fight for pride and to be named â€˜King of the Desert.â€™ BRANDS FEATURED
A thin, sandy track stretches 230km from Alice Springs in central Australia to the dry bed of the Finke River, the oldest river in the world. Locally known as God’s country, each year over 600 riders tackle the terrain in a quest to simply make it there and back. This is the Finke Desert Race and it is a religion. For the riders, the spectators and the town of Alice Springs, the event is more than a race. Finke: There and Back delves below the surface to uncover what makes them tick, what drives them to put their lives on the line when they strap their helmets on. Paraplegic Isaac Elliott is attempting to complete the race that he started a decade earlier. He must modify a two wheeled motorcycle to be able to ride the event, install a custom-made seat and a protective cage. With only a week to spare, he straps himself to the bike and attempts to ride the track. Scruff Hamill, who lives in a shed full of bikes in Sydney, makes the trip to tick off a bucket list event. Scruff rides old bikes; he has brought over a 1983 model bike and will make his first attempt at Finke on the oldest bike in the field. The desert terrain is far different than the city streets of Sydney. ‘My legs, my back, my shoulders, everything is just in pain’, he remarks after his first ride. Meanwhile, the factory race teams at the head of the field fight for pride and to be named ‘King of the Desert.’ These teams, with almost bottomless pits of money, chase glory. The contenders are two Alice Springs locals who have spent 6 months in the gym and on the bikes, testing, training and preparing for the most important weekend of their year. They are the legends of the bike division but only one can take the crown. Stories of racers, families, paramedics and support workers intersect the central themes of family, addiction, and the hero’s journey, unveiling a powerful narrative that will amuse, intrigue, and entertain. It’s not often the viewer receives an ‘access all areas’ pass into the hearts and minds of people in various states of torment and conflict, but this documentary is a thrilling exception. Every year there are gutwrenching stories of bravery and tragedy. And who will win? The desert will decide. Director Dylan River brings a gritty reality combined with dream like sequences to his feature debut. Dylan’s previous work include a string of acclaimed and award-winning short films Coat of Arms (MIFF 2017), Black Chook (MIFF 2016) and Nulla Nulla (Berlin, Toronto, AACTA Award) and he worked as cinematographer alongside his dad Warwick Thornton on features Sweet Country and We Don’t Need a Map. Having competed in the race previously, River brings a wealth of experience and a deeply personal approach to what many may see as simply a macho display of masculinity. 7
CREW AND SPONSORS Writer/ Director: Dylan River Production: Brindle Films Producers: Rachel Clements Isaac Elliott Meredith Garlick Trisha Morton-Thomas Narrator: Eric Bana Editors: Marcus Dâ€™Arcy Kelly Cameron James Bradley Photography Director: Dylan River Sound Design and mix: Justine Angus Doron Kipen Brenden Croxon Composers: Darren Middleton Simon Walbrook
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cades e d o w t n More tha and a p i h s n a m . of crafts ng bikes.. i d i r f o e lifetim
Before the dawn of the millenial, Andy Strapz began making high quality Adventure gear on Victoriaâ€™s Mornington Peninsula. Designing gear primarily for his own use, Andy developed it over the decades through feedback from riders who tortured his products. His unique approach to design, construction and ongoing development means Aussie riders own and use gear made by one of them, tailored to the demands of the toughest country ever to raise dust.
MAIN Isaac Elliott Isaac Elliott was a champion junior motocross rider, competing at state and national levels. He was a nationally accredited coach and was at the crossroads between amateur and professional when he had an accident 10 years ago on the Finke track. Confined to a wheel chair, Isaac continued to compete for a few years but, at the time of filming Finke: There and Back, he had not been on a bike for 7 years.
Scruff Hamill Scruff Hamill lives in a warehouse full of motorcycles in Newtown, NSW. He rides old bikes and drives old cars because he finds them more interesting than the new stuff. Scruff represents the everyman, the rider whose only goal is to finish, to get there and back in one piece.
Daymon Stokie Daymon Stokie grew up in South Australia but moved to Alice Springs at a young age. He has raced motocross and desert racing and was one of Australiaâ€™s most successful desert racers around world. He was the only Australian to have won the prestigious BAJA 1000 event in Mexico. Unfortunately, a crash during a race, 6 months after the filming of FINKE: There and Back, resulted in his passing. 10
CHARACTERS David Walsh David Walsh is an Alice Springs local, a builder with a young family who races as a hobby. He has been racing motorcycle since he was a young child working his way through the ranks to being able to tackle the Finke Desert Race once he turned 16. David races for the KTM racing team and is a favourite going into the race. He has been on the podium multiple times but is yet to win the event.
Luke Hayes Luke Hayes grew up at Deep Well station along the Finke Desert Race track. Lukeâ€™s dad, Billy Hayes raced the event and his best position was 3rd outright in 1998. Unfortunately, Billy lost his life in a helicopter accident a few months before we starting filming Luke. Luke remembers the times on the track spent with his dad. Luke is on the KTM racing team with strong family and local support.
Toby Price Toby Price is the professional superstar of the Finke Desert Race. He has won the event 5 times from 6 attempts as well as being the only Australian to win the prestigious DAKAR. Heâ€™s based on the Gold Coast and is one of the few riders in the event who earns his living racing motorbikes. Unfortunately, an accident 6 months before Finke forced Toby out and he was only able to compete in the car competition. 11
ERIC BANA - NARRATOR Eric was introduced to international audiences in Chopper, which premiered at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival and earned Bana an Australian Film Institute award. He went on to co-star in Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down as one of the elite soldiers, in the war epic based on the 1993 US mission in Somalia. Shortly after, Eric starred in Ang Lee’s The Hulk and as Hector in Troy for director Wolfgang Peterson with costars Brad Pitt and Orlando Bloom/ The following year he starred in Steven Spielberg’s critically acclaimed Munich, about the 1972 Munich Olympics. Eric starred as Henry Tudor, opposite Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson in The Other Boleyn Girl and costarred in J.J. Abrams’ blockbuster hit, Star Trek, as the villain, Nero. He also featured in Funny People, The Time Traveler’s Wife, 12
Hanna, Deadfall, Closed Circuit, Lone Survivor and in the thriller, Deliver Us From Evil. In 2009 Bana directed his first film Love The Beast, a documentary that explores his 25-year-long relationship with his first car, and the importance of bonds formed through common passions. Bana was recently seen opposite Ricky Gervais in Special Correspondents,
a satirical comedy that Gervais wrote and directed; and in Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword, Jim Sheridan’s The Secret Scripture and The Forgiven opposite Forest Whitaker and directed by Roland Joffe. Bana is currently working on Universal Studio’s series Dirty John, where he plays the charismatic John Meehan alongside Connie Britton.
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FINKE DESERT RACE
The Finke Desert Race is an off road, multi terrain two-day race for bikes, cars, buggies and quads through desert country from Alice Springs to the small Aputula (Finke) community. The race is held each year on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend in June. “Finke” as it is commonly known, is the biggest annual sporting events in the Northern Territory and has the reputation of being one of the most difficult off-road courses in one of the most remote places in the world. Finke is unique and the most fun you can have with a helmet on!
The Track is divided into 5 sections:
Encompassing 230km each way, the Finke Desert Race travels through many properties on its way to end up crossing the Finke River just north of Aputula (previously known as Finke township).
• Start/Finish to Deep Well (61km) • Deep Well to Rodinga (31km) • Rodinga to Bundooma (43km) •Bundooma to Mt Squires (45km) • Mt Squires to Finke (49km)
The race started in 1976 as a “there and back” challenge for a group of local motorbike riders to race from Alice Springs to the Finke River and return. After the success of this initial ride, the Finke Desert Race has been held annually on 15
the Queen’s Birthday long weekend ever since. The race is run along sections of what was the Old Ghan railway service track adjacent to the railway line along a winding corrugated track, which snakes through typical outback terrain of red dirt, sand, spinifex, mulga and desert oaks. Even though the railway was realigned and rebuilt in the early 1980s, with the old tracks being pulled up, the race continues along its original course.
While originally the Finke was only a bike race, its increasing popularity saw the introduction of cars and offroad buggies in 1988. A rivalry developed between the two and four wheelers, as the buggies were keen to claim the holy grail of the race outright winner or “King of the Desert” as it is known. For 11 consecutive years the bikes were too quick for the cars despite the gap constantly narrowing. Finally, in 1999, a buggy returned home first to claim
the honour. With the bikes winning back the title in 2000 and 2001. From 2002 until 2004 the buggies held onto the “King of the Desert” title. In 2005 the title was changed to see two “Kings of the Desert”, one for the cars and one for bikes, each picking up $10,000 for their effort. Although the bikes and cars no longer race against each other for the title, it is always interesting to see who completes the 460 km round trip quickest.
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DIRECTOR BIO Dylan River – Writer/Director/ Director of Photography not for him. He couldn’t have been more wrong.
Dylan River is an Aboriginal filmmaker from Alice Springs in Central Australia. He grew up in a creative family filled with artists and filmmakers and, from an early age, thought filmmaking was boring and
In 2013, his debut documentary Buckskin won the Foxtel Documentary Prize at the Sydney Film Festival, followed by its broadcast on the ABC. In 2015, Dylan’s first short film Nulla Nulla was selected as part of the Berlin and Toronto film festivals and won the 2015 AACTA Award for Best Short Film.
His following shorts have filmed at Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide Film Festivals. Dylan has worked on numerous solo projects and tv series. His work as a cinematographer fills most of his time, and he is motivated to tell stories close to home, combining life and work as one. He has recently coDOP’d feature films Sweet Country and We Don’t Need a Map.
B I AC ● C O N
A TT A ● S TR
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TEAMS-BASED EVENTS WITH A FOCUS ON HAVING A GOOD TIME 1 Transmoto 12-Hour @ Batemans Bay, NSW Feb 29-March Transmoto 8-Hour @ Coffs Harbour, NSW April 4-5 Transmoto 8-Hour @ Secret Venue, TBA May 16-17 Transmoto 6-Hour @ Nabiac, NSW June 27-28 Transmoto 6-Hour @ Conondale, Qld July 25-26 Transmoto 8-Hour @ Wangaratta, Vic August 22-23 Transmoto 8-Hour @ Stroud, NSW October 10-11 THE TRANSMOTO ENDURO SERIES IS SUPPORTED BY
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Q&A with Finke race competitors: David Walsh and Scruff Hamill
Finke:There and Back. Q&A with Finke race competitors and motorbike riders, David Walsh and Scruff Hamill. This is the Finke Desert Race and it is a religion. Finke:There and Back is a 230km extreme-sports motorcycle adventure film narrated by acclaimed Australian actor and motorsports fanatic, Eric Bana. This Australian documentary by Alice Springs born & bred director and cinematographer, Dylan River, features paraplegic rider and film producer, 20
Isaac Elliott, it premiered at Sydney International Film Festival and is sure to capture the hearts and minds of motorbike riders throughout Australia and around the world!
and Finke is a tick off the old bucket list. He rides old bikes, has brought over a 1983 model bike and the documentary is his first attempt at Finke on the oldest bike in the field.
In the lead-up to Finke:There and Back documentary launch in cinemas around Australia this December, we dive into the adventures, first-hand insights and experiences from the minds-eye of seasoned motorbike riders and Finke competitors, David Walsh and Scruff Hamill.
David Walsh is an Alice Springs local, a builder with a young family who races as a hobby. He has been racing motorcycles since he was a young child working his way through the ranks to being able to tackle the Finke Desert Race once he turned 16. David races for the KTM racing team and is a favourite going into the race. He has been on the podium multiple times but
Scruff Hamill lives in a shed full of bikes in Sydney
is yet to win the event! How long have you been riding motorbikes? David: I have been riding and racing bikes for the past 17 years. Scruff: From when I could hold my head up straight, I was on the Ag bike with my dad every morning when he rode around the cows. What style of riding is your favourite? David: Desert racing. Definitely, desert racing. Scruff: Short circuit dirt track racing is what I mostly tackle, however I do enjoy a bit of single trail too. But who doesn’t! What bike do you currently ride? David: KTM 500 EXC. Scruff: I have a few bikes, but my main race bike is a 1981 Yamaha YZ465H. What’s the first bike you ever owned? David: XR100 Scruff: 1969 Honda 70 Trail. It was blue and it was cool. What’s your favourite daily ride?
Finke weekend was always the best time of the year! Scruff: Reading about it in ADB Magazines in the early 80s. I think I still have them! What makes Finke such a great race? David: The high speeds, atmosphere and the points in the race, where you go flying past camp sites and people are there cheering you on. It’s a pretty wonderful feeling! Scruff: Great is a strong word. Seriously though, Finke has a personality and will bite back if you don’t play your cards right! I still haven’t finished the race yet, but it must feel good to get there and back.
to know. Are you racing Finke 2020? David: I’m not 100% sure at this point. It is a massive commitment for me and my family. I’d love to roll up to the line with the number 1 plate though. Scruff: Oh man, I hope not. Dylan and I were talking about it the other night and… well, maybe… probably… dern, I think I am! The best bit of gear you can have for Finke? David: GDR Suspension on a KTM 500. You can’t beat that combo!
Why does it draw so many riders from different types of racing?
Scruff: Good suspension. Really good, modern suspension.
David: I think it’s the challenge. Finke racing weekend is a bucket list event for a lot of competitors because of how fast and hard the event is. Motorcycle riders also want to be able to say they completed the race.
Best tip for anyone wanting to race in Finke for the first time?
Scruff: Motorbike riders want to challenge it and challenge themselves. People ask me all the time what it’s like and I tell them straight - You have to experience it for yourself
David: Get out there in advance and take a look at the Finke track. That way you’ll know exactly what you are in for, prepare and can set your bike up accordingly to make it a little bit easier. Scruff: Probably do a few star jumps. Maybe lift a couple of weights.
David: Heading out to the sand dunes 30km down the Finke track. Scruff: The 1993 Postie probably gets the most use. It’s good for carrying stuff around and slipping through the traffic. What was your first Finke experience or memory? David: I first remember camping as a kid and watching the 500 two strokes. 21
Q&A with filmmaker, motorbike rider and creator, Isaac Elliott.
Finke. Once this highoctane outback Australian race is in your veins, it is an incomprehensible addiction... so much so, that even after a horrific motorcycle accident left him wheelchair-bound, Finke: There and Back creator and award-winning Australian filmmaker Isaac Elliott’s passion and addiction could not be sated. Finke: There and Back premiered at Sydney International Film Festival and is a 230km extremesports motorcycle adventure documentary narrated by acclaimed Australian actor and motorsports fanatic, Eric Bana. Ahead of cinema 22
screenings throughout Australia in December, we sat down with Isaac Elliott, to share his exclusive inside story on the journey and challenges of both competing in and filming Finke: There and Back. When did you start getting into filming races and bikes? I was paralysed in a motorcycle accident in 2007 and after being released from hospital, the first two things that I bought were a quad bike and a video camera. For the next year, I honed my skills filming local races and then the national series in 2009. Motorcycles have been a passion for me for as long as I can remember and to be able to combine it with
filmmaking is a dream come true. Tell us a bit about the creation of this film? Finke: There and Back was always going to be challenging, both logistically and creatively, as a film. For this reason, we made the decision to film the race on a much smaller scale in the year prior to shooting the documentary, in order to better understand the resources that we’d need and the challenges that we’d face. This empowered us to dive in head-first when it came to shooting the documentary the next year and to tell the story of Finke as we’d envisioned. The sheer act of shooting in Alice Springs in the middle
of Australia, meant that the majority of the crew, suppliers and equipment needed to be sourced and shipped in. The scale of the operation meant that we sourced cameras from VIC, NSW and QLD, a helicopter was brought in from Perth and our crew rode, drove or flew in from all over Australia. As I was racing in Finke also, my focus in the lead-up to the event, pivoted from production to getting my bike sorted and learning how to ride all over again. How did you first hear about/get involved in the Finke: There and Back film project? Planning Finke: There and Back began in around 2015. After a night out in Melbourne with director Dylan River, we started discussing the project and he
told me that he envisioned ‘3 Red cameras in helicopter and 20 on the ground’, which ended up being pretty much bang on numbers-wise during production.
to feel a little terrified! The closer that we got to race weekend however, my focus sharpened to be entirely on racing and everything that goes into it.
What was the process like for the months leading into the race and filming? (Being that you were part of both the filmmaking and racing elements)
It was a little difficult getting used to being on the other side of the camera at first, but at a certain point the related stress, nerves and focus required for competing on race weekend, meant that I completely blocked the cameras out and was at one with Finke.
In the lead-up to Finke, I was working with the team on planning, pre-production and teaching in Melbourne until 10 days before the event. Dylan and a sound recordist meanwhile, spent 4 months prior to the race filming interviews with the riders, families, volunteers and event personnel. I was able to get to Alice Springs over Easter to begin the work on my custom bike to race the event and began
Your first time on a bike in 7 years, having a customadaptive bike, what were the biggest hurdles you and your team had in the creation of the bike and getting to and through the race? My biggest fear when building the bike was that we had to build it all in one go in a
really sort space of time. In an ideal scenario, I would have taken the time to build the seat to perfection first, move onto the protective cage and then proceed with further modifications. We didn’t have the luxury of time however, so the seat, bars, gear changing, brake relocation and Finke specific modifications were all built and installed at once! After around 6 weeks of building and only 10 days prior to Finke, the motorbike was race ready and I was able to start practising. And as you’ll see in the film, it didn’t go so great!! Once we started testing, we encountered new challenges with the build. Due to the high speeds of the racetrack, I needed to reposition the seat about 4 inches further back and additional work was required to ensure that the gear shift and clutch were operating correctly. With these issues fixed, I was able to properly test ride the motorbike just 3 days before the race and found that the suspension was so soft that it was causing me to bounce uncontrollably through the deep holes between what are known as the ‘whoops’, which make up about half of the track’s length. Fortunately, a friend gave me some stiffer suspension, 24
which I tested the day prior the race. It completely changed the character of the bike; it was perfect and we were ready! None of this would have been possible without the help and hard work of so many – much love and thanks to Jamie Landers who actioned all the mechanical work on the bike and rode with me in the race, Mick Ackerman who built the cage and seat base, Jonny Patton for lending me the suspension and exhaust and my brother Zoran Elliott for riding with me in the race and helping in the preparation. I was rather sore for a week afterwards, but the bike ran perfectly both days of race weekend! What is your favourite moment in the film? I don’t really have a favourite moment in the film as such, however I would say that my favourite part of the film is the incredible countryside that we capture throughout Finke race weekend. Being based in Melbourne these days, it is truly a special thing to experience the beautiful, dramatic landscapes that make up central Australia. Oh, and there’s a section in the narration where Eric Bana infers that I’m a “dark horse”. I like that.
What was going through your head at the starting line for Finke? “Please don’t die Isaac you idiot” and “Just take it easy cobber”. I refer myself in the 3rd person a lot when I am nervous. After about 2 minutes into the race though, the nerves dissipated, and I was determined to pass as many people as possible. What did you learn by racing Finke? The most important thing I learnt racing Finke and making Finke:There and Back was to embrace the fear and unknown - to say yes first and then figure the rest out later. Would you do Finke again? Maybe in a car, I’m pretty scared still. What else are you working on right now? I’m currently directing a documentary for VICE and a kid’s short film for ABC ME. I’m also in planning to a kid’s TV series that is set in the world of junior motorcycle racing in Alice Springs. It’s called MaveriX and as you can see, the motorcycle bug hasn’t let off one bit!
STORY COURTESY OF TRANSMOTO
The Finke Desert Race should be on your bucket list… Peter Whitaker
WRANGLE THE ROADS
BEING THERE’S BETTER
EMBRACE THE EVENT
PLEASURE OF SPECTATING
From every compass point in Australia, the Red Centre lies at the end of our greatest adventure rides. From the northeast, there’s the Sandover and Plenty – of sand – Highways. And from the southwest, the legendary Gunbarrel or Great Central Road will spear you past Kata Tjuta and Uluru on the way up to Alice. But it’s from the southeast, where most of us live, that you get to enjoy some of the magic rides through the Flinders Ranges before heading up the Oodnadatta Track for a halfway beer at William Creek. Or for a real adventure, head to Birdsville then take the French Line across the Simpson Desert to the pub at Mount Dare. For wimps, there’s always ‘The Ghan Railway’.
With over 500 competitors, the Finke Desert Race is Australia’s biggest international motorsport event. But unlike MotoGP you don’t need a big wallet or a bigger pair of bazookas to get close to the action. At Friday night’s scrutineering, everyone is a VIP with an AAA pass. The teams assemble to meet the fans and discuss their plans to do better than last year; they can mill about with guys like Ben Grabham and Toby Price, who both want to put their Katos well in front of the Hondas of Todd and Jake Smith. It may be the start of winter in the city but in the Red Centre, it’s blue sky from horizon to horizon, from sparrows to happy hour; after which, you should be round a blazing campfire with a belly full of rum.
Whilst Alice always welcomes travellers, it’s a bloody long way between Bondi and Broome. There’s no surf break and even their famous Regatta is held in a dry riverbed. All year round, Alice enjoys the car rallies, variety bashes, 4WD clubs and the never-ending stream of grey nomads in their Winnebagos and caravans. But June is moto month. For almost 40 years, ‘Finke’ has been the marquee event of the year. A weeklong celebration of doing it in the dirt – on two wheels or four. Have a beer at Toddies Tavern or chow down on kangaroo, emu and crocodile at the Overlander Steakhouse. Or just hook the genny up to the fridge somewhere down between Deep Well and Rodinga and put on your own spread.
Diehard Finke fans all have their own ideas on where the best spot to enjoy the race is; but none will tell you their secret. The Saturday prologue is a must if you want a great overview of the event and a close-up of the Grid Girls. Then you’ve got over 220 kilometres of track to find the best vantage point. Wherever you choose, remember the riders are doing better than 40 metres a second and the track is barely four metres wide. It’s unlikely you’ll see much deviation from Grabbo, Price, Green or the Smith boys, but whilst all the competitors believe they’re in total control, some of them also believe in fairies. So please take care testing out your new GoPro extension poles when you’re trackside.
A single day’s ride around Alice will run you past some of our continent’s most amazing scenery. You don’t even have to leave the blacktop for a run along the MacDonnell Ranges and up past Simpsons Gap, Standley Chasm and Glen Helen Gorge. Is your whip shod with knobbies? Then head for Finke National Park, Palm Valley or Chambers Pillar. Alternatively, head out to Kings Canyon and Haasts Bluff or skirt the Simpson Desert out to Old Andado. Then head down to Ebeneezer, share a beer or two with the locals and hope to score an invitation to ride on some of their private stations. Soak up a bit of local knowledge and, who knows, you might be back the following year with a number on your bike.
Giving The Race Justice with Director: Dylan River
The end of the 2014 Finke Desert Race had me feeling frustrated, confused and left questioning why I am doing this, a feeling I’m all too familiar with as a filmmaker – and racing motorbikes is no different. From the age of 16, I have competed in the annual Finke event with highs and lows but always with the same dedication to training and outlay of money. I am accustomed to the dramas involved in Australia’s greatest off-road race, from the risks to heartbreak. I asked myself why I race each year, and was left with the answer that it’s about leaving a mark, and telling a story. I realised that the story I want to tell now is not about my race, it’s about other people’s race. I needed to understand this addiction that is Finke. As a film director and as a racer I didn’t 26
believe this story had ever been truly captured to its potential. I wanted to create a picture of this race which will not be targeted at people like me, already within this world.
film, and the history of the race and the riders are engrained in my head. This comes from being immersed in this world and I hope this is reflected on the screen.
My aim was to fill the film with high drama, strong characters, thoughtful understanding, reflective moments and at the same time allowing time to breathe! Something so important in racing. This film, while filled with fast-cut action, is a character-driven, observational insight into the characters who dedicate themselves to something so high risk, time-consuming and questionable in its rewards.
The film is a mix between highly planned sequences and a loose observational style. We had access to great characters, who can hold their own on the screen, and access to a long history of great documentation of the event through archive footage.
I have close relationships and trust with the characters in this
With Finke: There and Back, I wanted to give the race justice by giving back what it has given to me. I am excited to be presenting this film to an audience who I think will be hooked and enjoy the ride.
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STORY COURTESY OF TRANSMOTO
STOriES OUr SpOrT iS BUiLT On
ripping yarn The year that roaring Finke Desert race favourite, Brad Williscroft, ‘scored’ a soul-destroying hat-trick of DnFs. BRAD WILLISCROFT
first started seriously thinking about the Finke when andy Wigan came back from the race’s 25th anniversary in 2000, raving about the thing. Shortly after that, i did the red Light Desert race in Victoria, where i met Michael Vroom, a Honda dealer from alice Springs who’d been a regular Finke frontrunner. Vroomy said i could stay at his place in alice and do some riding together if i ever came out that way. at that time, i was still racing motocross (the Thumper nats and the odd MX nats round) and i was two or three years in to my enduro racing career, but something about desert racing really appealed to me. i knew that some Mister MX legends – guys like Leisk, gall and Dack – had all raced Finke back in the day, and i knew that a lot of riders from alice Springs absolutely lived for the race, and became town legends if they managed to win it. So by the time Wigan called to say he’d wangled me a free entry, flights and accommodation for the 2001 Finke, my ‘fate’ was sealed. When i first went to alice and prerode some of the tracks with Jason Hill, i remember getting a wake-up call about the kind of crazy speed required to run up front at Finke. But i managed to adapt to it pretty quickly because of my varied riding background. and i fell in love with the race straight away. admittedly, the speed and the adrenaline was addictive, but there was much more to Finke. aside from making a lot of friends in alice, i loved the Outback country and the fact the whole town gets behind the race. it was pretty cool being put up in a nice room at Lasseter’s Casino, too. i came third Outright and won my class that first year in ’01, and then got more serious with my pre-running for 2002; when i ran third again, beaten by a couple of the local legends, rick Hall and
ADAM RIEMANN // ANDY WIGAN
Stephen greenfield. Then in 2003, i had a stator failure while leading and DnF’d. The following year, i was better prepared again and had much more confidence. i was leading by 10 minutes close to Finke on the 230km run south, but blew a head gasket. That second DnF was a tough pill to swallow, so i focused a lot of attention on 2005 – the 30th anniversary race.
That 2005 Finke was the first year KTM gave me a mechanic and hooked me up with a factory 610cc motor – a 525EXC, but with a completely different crank, cases, piston, etcetera. We did a heap of testing and got the thing running awesome. But things didn’t start well that year. in fact, i never made the startline. as i hadn’t finished the previous year, i didn’t get to do my 2005 prologue with the top 20 guys, who always get to run first. instead, i rode with my class, which ended
up being really late after a long delay, by which time the sun was getting pretty low in the sky. To get the riders through quicker, they ended up starting four at a time, every 30 seconds. i caught the guys in front of me pretty quickly and, blinded by the thick dust and the angle of the sun, i ran off the track and straight into an anthill. i went over the bars and drove my shoulder into the ground. i knew i’d done something bad, but i jumped back on the bike and limped over the line. i think i ended up about 100th. Back in the medical centre, i was still thinking i might be able to get it fixed and still race the next day, but when i cooled down, reality set it. My collarbone was badly broken, and there was no way i could ride, let alone race. after the DnFs of the previous two years, that was a devastating realisation. But what you come to realise with Finke is that, unless you get into the race as a young bloke, there’s only a narrow window where you can win the thing. There are better riders than me who’ve never managed to win it Outright – despite being the guy to beat in their day. all the stars have to align to become King of the Desert, and you need a little luck, too. i was 36 back in 2005, so my window of opportunity was starting to close. i did alright at Finke over the following years – i got class wins in 2006, ’08, ’09, ’11 and ’12, and Outright podiums in ’06, ’08, and ’09 – but i never managed to win it Outright. as KTM team manager, we won Finke Outright four years straight. Ben grabham and Toby price won two apiece between 2009 to 2012, and Jarrod Bewley and i helped us to a 1-2 result for two of those years. That was gratifying, but it’s not the same. i don’t think it could ever compare to winning Finke myself. and that’s not counting those 10 grand winner’s cheques and sponsor bonuses i never collected!
anDy Wigan’S TaKE...
ack in 2000, I was the Editor at ADB mag, and I had a pretty sweet deal in place with the Finke Committee. We’d give them some free ads and a guaranteed feature article in the mag, and they’d give me free flights, accommodation and entry into the race. In 2001, I managed to convince the Committee to extend that contra deal to highprofile racer cum magazine test rider, Brad Williscroft. And from then on, Finke became a bit of an annual junket for me and Williscroft. He’d race hard and I’d play hard. “Within a year or two, Brad’s Finke racing exploits made him big news in Alice Springs. They’d have him on the radio and TV and send limos to the airport to pick the rockstar up, and more than a few of the local fillies did their best to ‘distract’ him from racing. I’d been reduced to his sidekick by this stage, which suited me just fine. “The 2005 Finke was a memorable year, and not just because 13 of the race’s 14 Kings of the Desert had rocked up for the 30th anniversary Legends Dinner. It was also the year Brad Williscroft was an unbackable favourite. Mechanicals had robbed him of certain wins in the previous two years, but if the 36-year-old’s factory-spec KTM survived in 2005, no one would touch him. Sadly, a prologue mishap got in the way. “I distinctly remember the awkward silence in the medical centre, where a disconsolate Williscroft sat with his arm in a sling and his head slumped into his one functional hand. A huge lump in his collarbone would soon need the attention of a plate and 12 screws. As I quietly lifted my camera to take a shot of the scene, he looked up and gave a menacing scowl. After stepping back out of reach, I banged off two shots anyway and sheepishly told him that, one day, he’d appreciate the image. Well, Bradley, that day has come.”
“Blinded by the thick dust and the angle of the sun, i ran off the track and straight into an anthill.”
STORY COURTESY OF TRANSMOTO
STORIES OUR SPORT IS BUILT ON
RIPPING yARN The amusing events surrounding the 2005 coming together of Finke’s 13 Kings of the Desert in Alice Springs.
n the lead-up to the 2005 Finke Desert Race, the event’s organisers had pulled off what can only be called a coup. Somehow, they managed to assemble 13 of Finke’s 14 Outright winners in Alice Springs for an evening grandiosely billed as “The Legends Dinner”. The 2005 race marked the 30th running of the Finke – an event religiously held over the Queen’s Birthday Long Weekend – and a packed house in the Tattersall’s Casino was treated to a truly memorable occasion that Thursday night. Two of the great desert race’s pioneering organisers, Damien Ryan and Garry King, were in charge of proceedings. Both were
in black-tie and in their element. Over the course of several hours, they beckoned each Finke winner to the stage and got them to reflect on the year(s) they’d ruled the treacherous stretch of Northern Territory desert between Alice Springs and the Aboriginal community of Finke (or Apatula) that lay 230km to its south. One hilarious anecdote after another, the 13 Kings of the Desert painted a picture of Finke’s colourful past. The crowd was regaled with sensational stories about the mad-as-hell Le Mans starts and bar-mounted fuel tanks in the early days; about the hideously inadequate old bikes, the torturous
track’s toll on man and machinery, the influx of the Pro motocrossers in 1980s, the CR500’s dominance, Randall Gregory’s unbeaten five-year winning streak, and the emergence of the four-strokes as the bike of choice. And common to all the stories was an undercurrent of rivalry between the Alice Springs locals and the out-of-towners; between the guys who grew up in Alice and absolutely lived to race Finke, and the blow-ins who rocked up to pilfer ‘their’ silverware, the prize money and honour. Needless to say, the Legends put away a fair few ales over the course of that amusing night, and the stories that were
too lewd or politically incorrect for the Legend Dinner’s stage were unleashed afterward as the party kicked on in some of the Alice’s more dingy establishments. I kept thinking to myself that if I’d just had a camera rolling, I’d be sitting on one the sport’s best documentaries of all time. Short of that, I decided I ought to at least get a line-up photo of these Kings of the
of holding it wide open and winning the Finke is generally more concerned with spontaneity than punctuality. The plan was to get the 12 available Kings to line up under the start/finish banner on the course for a group shot. I’d allowed a good hour between the photo shoot and when the first bikes were due to run the prologue track. But with 45
Finally, with the first bikes already on the prologue course and race officials giving us the hurry-up, we managed to assemble 11 Kings if the Desert (Darren Griffiths was off in search of a hair-of-thedog, apparently) and punched out three quick frames. Immediately after that, the sound of a big-bore thumper charging toward the finish line saw the 11 Kings
“Anyone capable of holding it wide open and winning the Finke is generally more concerned with spontaneity than punctuality. Honestly, herding kindergarten cats would have been easier.” Desert before the weekend was out. So I arranged a Saturday morning rendezvous out at the Finke’s start/finish line. Come Saturday morning, the agreed meeting time came and went, and there were no more than a handful of the Legends in sight. Ever the professional, Stephen Gall had explained that he’d be on a helicopter en route to Uluru, and couldn’t make it. But the rest of them were simply MIA. It shouldn’t have surprised me. After all, anyone capable
minutes of that hour gone, the plan was unravelling fast. I enlisted a bunch of mates to join me in scurrying around and rounding up the stragglers. But, honestly, herding kindergarten cats would have been easier. When the ‘final’ King was dragged into position, another would have just gone missing – to ‘have a quick piss’ or ‘just drop the car keys off to the missus’. This happened countless times and, along with lensman Adam Riemann, my patience was starting to wear thin.
scamper in all directions, and disappear back into the melting pot of humanity that had amassed by this time. With the image finally in the bag, I had a quiet chuckle to myself about the morning’s shenanigans. And I pondered the chances of getting the Kings of the Desert together again in 2015 for Finke’s 40th anniversary. Given that it’ll be more like 19 or 20 blokes in two years’ time, perhaps it’s time we started rounding them up now...
Kings, from left to right: Geoff Curtis – 1976, 1978, 1980 Phil Stoker – 1977 Peter Stayt – 1979, 1984 Phil Lovett – 1981, 1982, 1985 David Armstrong – 1987 Alan Roe – 1988 Mark Winter – 1989, 1990 Randall Gregory – 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995 Rick Hall – 1999, 2002 Michael Vroom – 2001 Stephen Greenfield – 1997, 1998, 2000, 2004
Absent for photo: Stephen Gall – 1983, 1986 Darren Griffiths – 2003 NOTE: And the 14th King who was MIA at the 2005 Legends Dinner? A Yank called Dan Ashcraft – who’d disappeared back to America after his 1996 win, absconded with the Finke’s perpetual trophy, and was never heard of again. Sadly, he didn’t respond to the invitation to attend the 2005 Legends Dinner.
Subsequently crowned Kings… Jason Hill – 2005 Ryan Branford – 2006 Ben Grabham, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011 Toby Price – 2010, 2012 Todd Smith – 2013 113
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TOUR DATES QUEENSLAND Brisbane Pre-Release Screening Tour Q&A Screening Schonell Theatre, December 12, 7pm Gold Coast Special Q&A Event Cinemas Robina, December 11, 7pm Sunshine Coast Special Q&A Event Cinemas Maroochydore, December 13, 7pm
Newcastle Special Q&A Event Cinemas Kotara, December 7, 7pm Port Macquarie Special Q&A Majestic Cinema, December 8, 7pm Coffs Harbour Special Q&A Majestic Sawtell, December 9, 7pm Blue Mountains Special Q&A Mt Vic Flicks, December 6, 8pm
NEW SOUTH WALES
Stroud Special Screening Event SOLD OUT 2019 Transmoto 8-Hour Series, Stroud
Melbourne Q&A Screening Astor Theatre, December 17, 7pm
Lismore Special Q&A Starcourt Theatre, December 10, 7pm
ACT Canberra Special Q&A NFSA, December 12, 7pm
WESTERN AUSTRALIA Perth Special Screening Luna Cinema, December 16, 6:30pm
SOUTH AUSTRALIA Adelaide Special Screening Wallis Cinemas Piccadilly, December 5, 7pm Adelaide Special Screening Wallis Cinemas Noarlunga, December 5, 7pm
NORTHERN TERRITORY Darwin Special Q&A Event Cinemas Palmerston, December 14, 7pm
Mildura Special Screening Wallis Cinemas Mildura, December 5, 7pm
Sydney Special Q&A Event George St, December 5, 7pm
Check the website for more screenings as they are announced: www.adventureentertainment.com 35
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COMING IN 2020
Director: Various Release: February 2020
Director: Mimi DeGruy Release: February 2020
Director: Morgan Le Faucheur Release: TBC
Director(s): Various Release: March 2020
Director: Teton Gravity Research Release: April 2020
Director: Dylan River Release: May 2020 39
Director: Kate Leeming Live
Director(s): Various Release: August 2020
Director(s): Various Release: March and September
Director(s): Various Release: From September 2020
Director(s): Joe Berlinger Release: TBC
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For the riders, the spectators and the town of Alice Springs, the Finke Desert Race is more than a race. Finke: There and Back delves below...