Aussie off-road racing icon Ben Grabham is a massive eleventh hour addition to an already crackerjack field for the 2021 Finke Desert Race (FDR), which will be held in the Northern Territory on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend (June 12-14).
Grabham, who sits equal third in the FDR hall of fame with four victories, has come off the waiting list to gain a last-minute entry.
The triumphant return for the Bathurst (NSW) native will see him on a Sherco 300 SE Factory two-stroke under the Motul Pirelli Sherco Racing Team umbrella.
His mini comeback to open terrain competition will also encompass the Hattah Desert Race from July 2-4 – another event where he is a multiple former champion.
As far as the FDR is concerned, it will only be ‘Grabbo’s’ second appearance in the annual showpiece – a high-speed 460km return journey from Alice Springs to the small township of Finke – since 2014.
Grabham, who now runs a coaching business specialising in one-on-one riding tuition, 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 FDR 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.
With the 39-year-old’s pedigree in the desert racing ranks and his insatiable appetite for the contest, he’ll undoubtedly be pushing hard for honours in the open two-stroke class at Finke – and a top 20 outright isn’t out of the equation against a stream of big-bore four-strokes.
“I’ve always wanted to ride a two-stroke at Finke and I’ve really loved riding the Sherco in the extreme enduro events, so everything has just fallen into place," said Grabham.
“It’s something different, too, and it just feels right to be heading into the cauldron of Finke one again.”
As well as his recent extreme enduro deeds for Sherco – he also finished on the podium at the 2020 Wildwood Rock Extreme – Grabbo also made a winning cameo in the 2018 Australian Off Road Championship on a 125 SE Racing two-stroke.
Grabbo is one of only three past FDR winners in this year’s event alongside defending champion David Walsh and Todd Smith.
“It’s a massive bonus for us having someone of Grabbo’s class racing for the Motul Pirelli Sherco Racing Team in the Finke this year,” said team manager Derek Grundy.
“He’s a past winner, but his motivation to really put on a great show is an example of how much of a professional he really is."
Meanwhile, the Mallee Motorcycles-supported Nathan Trigg will be another Sherco hotshot in action at the Finke Desert Race, contesting the heavily subscribed 251-450cc class on his 450 SEF Factory as well as pushing for outright honours.
Trigg has three top 10 outright finishes at the FDR with a best result of sixth in 2017 and victory in the 251-450cc four-stroke class in 2018.
“I’m really happy with my lead-up to the event, and I’ve completed a lot of off-bike training to really get myself into shape," said Trigg.
"I’m just going to ride my own race and have a heap of fun – you ride better when you’re having fun. I know the pace that I can ride at comfortably, so we’ll see what transpires when I cross the finish line.”
The prologue for the 2021 Finke Desert Race will be held on Saturday, June 12, which will determine the starting order for the run to Finke on Sunday. Then it will all happen in reverse on Monday, with the leading riders expected to complete the event in around four hours.
The race record of three hours, 46 minutes and 55 seconds is held by Toby Price at an average speed of nearly 122km/h.
For more information on the 2001 Finke Desert Race, including all you need to know as a spectator, click here