The Pirelli Motul Sherco Racing Team has assembled a potent blend of youth and experience for the 2021 running of the prestigious Hattah Desert Race in Victoria from July 2-4.
The traditional follow-up to the Finke Desert Race will see off-road legend Ben Grabham, former motocrosser turned enduro rider Justin Carafa and Tasmanian hotshot Jonte Reynders all competing for the distributor-backed team in the event near Mildura, while Nathan Trigg will also hit the energy-sapping scrub and sand – and the occasional long straight – on a Sherco.
Grabham, 39, is already a multiple outright winner of the Hattah, and this year he’ll compete in the Veterans class on a 450 SEF Factory, while Reynders will campaign the 300 SE Factory two-stroke that has already taken him to a slew of top three results in the Australian Off-Road Championship (AORC) over the last two years.
Carafa will make it three different French-built Shercos under the Pirelli Motul Sherco Racing Team banner on the company’s big bertha – a 500 SEF Factory.2021 SHERCO ENDURO RANGE
Grabham, or ‘Grabbo’ to the motorcycle racing set, is a part-time racer these days as he devotes most of his energies towards a coaching business specialising in one-on-one riding tuition.
Racing will always remain a part of his DNA, though, and he recently competed in round two of the Australian Hard Enduro Championship for the Motul Pirelli Sherco Racing Team, finishing in a strong fourth position.
However, the Hattah will see him return to his bread-and-butter – pushing to the limits in vast open spaces. It's a storied career which has taken him all the way to a top 15 finish in the famed Dakar Rally.
“I’m on bikes quite a lot these days with my coaching business (Grabbo’s Trail and Track) and I’m over a niggling arm injury so why not give the Hattah another go,” said Grabham.
“I’ve really loved riding the Sherco two-stroke in the extreme enduro events, so now I’m jumping on the big four-stroke to give that a go.”
Reynders, 24, is really hitting his straps in 2021 after a second place finish in the AORC opener and then dominating round three of the Tasmanian enduro series.
He’s back at Hattah for the second time and failing to finish the rain-lashed event in 2019 because of a mechanical problem on the final lap – a bitter pill to swallow after leading his class by as much as five minutes. His chance for redemption in 2020 was then scuppered by a Covid-enforced cancellation.
“I am super keen to get to Hattah this year and hopefully do a full four-hour race in the usual conditions,” said Reynders.
“I’m looking forward to the long race and seeing what we can achieve on the 300 two-stroke. I think the 300 will be great in the tighter sections of the track but won’t obviously have the top-end speed on the straights.
“I’m aiming to win the 300 class and finish top 20 outright.”
Carafa returns to the Sherco factory operation after competing for the brand during the tail end of the last decade, which included an eyebrow-raising victory on the 125 SE-R enduro bike in a support class at the Australian Motocross Championship!
"I've raced at Hattah 10 times and, even though I keep telling myself I won't do it again, I keep changing my mind!" said Carafa, who runs a thriving concreting business on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria.
"When (team manager) Derek offered me a ride on the 500, I coldn't resist and it's also a good chance to push hard in the outright battle on the big four-stroke. I'd like to think I'm easy to work alongside as well, so I'm hoping that it'll be a great event for us."
Meanwhile, Trigg (450 SEF Factory) knows the Hattah landscape like the back of his hand, with the farmer living just down the road from the race epicentre at Ouyen.
The 27-year-old was fourth in the over 450cc four-stroke class in 2019, and seventh overall, and he’ll be riding the Mallee Motorcycles-backed 450 SE Factory that he’s using in the Finke Desert Race on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend.
The 2021 Hattah Desert Race begins with scrutineering and sign-on in Red Cliffs – 25km north of Hattah – on Friday, July 2, followed by the prologue on Saturday to determine the starting order for Sunday’s competition.
For the senior riders, racing will encompass eight laps of a 37km circuit, while juniors will also be in action. Sherco electric balance bikes take centre stage
There’ll be a mini carnival feel to scrutineering and sign-in in Red Cliffs on Friday night, and Sherco will to the forefront with an electric balance bike race.
Sherco’s two electric balance bikes – the EB12 and EB16
– will be punted around a purpose-built circuit by local children, complete with on-course commentary. This will be the real deal!
The two electric balance bikes were launched by Sherco Australia in 2020, complete with twist-and-go throttles, height-adjustable seats, two power level modes and a power cut-off switch. There’s even a non-powered mode for the gradual introduction to the wonders of two-wheel riding.
The EB12 (as in 12-inch wheels) is suitable for kids up to about 34kg, and the EB16 about 40kg. They are priced at $649 (EB12) and $749 (EB16) respectively.
For more information on the 2021 Hattah Desert Race, including the best spectating locations, click here