The Tatts Finke Desert Race is a two day, 230km each-way off road race along the dry Finke River bed from Alice Springs to the small community of Aputula. From humble beginnings in 1976 it is now one of the premier, and hardest, off-road races in the world and attracts racers from all of the world on motorbikes, in cars, buggies and quad bikes. I first came across the race in my previous job at ABC News, when we would get the footage fed from Alice back to Sydney for the news broadcast. I was blown away by the speed that the racers would travel over the constantly changing and treacherous desert terrain. When this documentary, ‘Finke: There and Back’ came out I knew I had to check it out.
‘Finke: There and Back’ follows the story of four motorcycle racers, largely ignoring the other vehicles. David Walshe is local boy and the favourite to win the race. He is sponsored by the Factory Team KTM and has not won before, though he has placed on the podium. His rival, another local lad Daymon Stokie, is the 2nd rider followed and he is the underdog, riding for the Yamaha motorcycle company. The 3rd rider is Sydney motorcycle enthusiast Scruff Hamill. Scruff, riding a vintage dirt bike, has never raced the Finke before and just aims to finish the race to kick it off his bucket list. The fourth rider featured, and arguably the most interesting, is Isaac Elliott. Isaac raced The Finke a number of years ago but a high-speed crash whilst competing left him paraplegic. With the help of friends, Isaac has a custom made cage attached to his motorbike to support his legs and with the support of two buddy riders, enters the race again with the aim of finishing what he started.
The stories of the riders are intertwined nicely, with minimal, non intrusive narration by Eric Bana providing additional information and cohesiveness. The real star of the show though is the race itself and it’s location. Aerial cinematography showing the motorcyclists speeding through the vast desert landscapes are breathtaking. Watching these top riders take on deep sand, whoops, corrugations and small jumps at nearly 200kph is absolutely mindblowing. It is mentioned that in the history of the race there has only been 3 fatal crashes, and when you see some of the crashes captured on film it is hard to understand how more don’t occur! I think it is testament to the organisation of the race and the dedication of the paramedic/medical staff, which is lightly touched on. Also in the spotlight are the race spectators, who come to The Finke to see their heroes, camp under the stars and drink…lots.
If you are a fan of motorbikes or motorsport, or even a fan of human endurance and spirit, then this is a great film to watch. As the race unfolds you realise that not all stories are going to go to plan. It doesn’t really matter though, because everything that is happening is just so exhilarating that it seems that there are no real losers in the Finke experience.
Director – Dylan River
Writer – Dylan River
Stars – Isaac Elliott, David Walshe, Daymon Stokie, Scruff Hamill, Eric Bana (Narrator)
Rating – M
Running Time – 92 Mins
Genre – Documentary