Yamaha has claimed it’s first Finke Desert Race win in over 30 years with Active8 Yamalube Yamaha’s Daymon Stokie winning the iconic event.
Held in the remote desert of the Northern Territory, Stokie completed the two-day race in four hours and 11 minutes ahead of Ivan Long (Husqvarna) and Luke Hayes (KTM).
The event started well for Stokie, a resident of Alice Springs, when he posted the second best time in the prologue providing a great starting position for the trek down to Finke on day one.
Despite carrying a hand injury from a previous endurance event, Stokie gritted his teeth and manned-up in the countries toughest race to reach Finke in second place and five minutes behind leader and KTM rider, David Walsh.
Walsh arrived at Finke for the overnight camp with a buffer of over five-and-a-half minutes over Stokie – despite riding the last 20 kilometres on a flat rear tyre.
The 27-year-old carpenter certainly looked to be on the very cusp or carving his own legend into the Finke record books, when a technical issue caused his machine to lose power, Walsh’s race was done.
“It’s been an unbelievable couple of days,” Stokie said moments after he crossed the finish line.
Stokie said the lead-up to the event was “tough” on the team with Josh Green withdrawing from the race with a mechanical issue and Beau Ralston hurting himself earlier in May.
“It was a huge relief to get the win and reward the team for a massive effort,” he said.
Husqvarna’s Ivan Long made it back to Alice three minutes behind Stokie, gaining six minutes on the run home.
Long suffered a flat tyre 25 kilometres from the start-line on Day 1 which could have cost him the win.
Luke Hayes’ goal was to beat his last year’s finish of sixth outright, and his confidence would have been high with a last-minute upgrade to Toby Price’s vacated KTM 500 EXC-F.
The 22-year-old primary school indigenous student assistant exceeded his goal – right onto the Finke outright podium.
Hayes said he was “absolutely stoked” to be on the podium.
“It’s been a long time in the making.
“I was sixth out of Alice because Josh Green beat me off the start, and left Finke in third and came home third.
“The run down was pretty wild.
“I was in dust for about 120 kilometres and I had a handful of big moments just fighting through it, but the way home was much better.
“I had a bit of fresh air in front of me and a bit of leeway behind me, so I just focussed on stringing together a nice clean run and just wanted to make sure I got home safe and sound,” he said.
Hayes was followed home by another KTM, the 450 EXC-F of young Mount Gambier racer Kent Collins, who rounded out the 451cc and above 4T class podium, in the process taking a hugely creditable fourth position outright.
Twenty-three-year-old Victorian farmer Nathan Trigg used his 2017 KTM 300 EXC to defend his 251cc and above 2T class title in the boldest possible terms, incredibly winning by more than an hour over the KTMs of Benjamin Russell and Samuel Handley.
Other KTM class winners included Veterans 45 Years and Over champion Jamie Harrison, who led another KTM trifecta comprising Neil Doyle and Adam O’Connor.
In the Masters 35 to 39 Years, Michael Burgess triumphed over Anthony Hanlan and Simon Drew.
Stokie’s win was the first for Yamaha since 1986 when Stephen Gall claimed victory.