Aussie off-road legend Ben Grabham has made a spectacular return to the Finke Desert Race (FDR), easily winning the open two-stroke class on his Motul Pirelli Sherco Racing Team 300 SE Factory.
The 39-year-old was at his towering best, but there were muted celebrations after a pall of sadness fell over the event following the tragic death of a 60-year-old spectator on day two.
The spectator was hit by a buggy as the four-wheeled machines made their way back to Alice Springs, after which the balance of the event was cancelled as race organisers and authorities began their investigations.
As a result of the incident, the motorcycle competitors rode back to Alice Springs in a convoy on day two, with Grabham among them.
Results for the event were only based on the opening day’s action, where Grabbo made it to Finke 18 minutes ahead of his nearest competitor in the 251cc and above two-stroke class.
That was also good enough for 21st outright, and agonisingly close to a spot in the top 20.
“I am rapt with my result at Finke, and I couldn’t fault the 300 SE Factory, said Grabham. "I had an absolute ball, and I’ve now ticked the box for riding a two-stroke at the event for the first time.
“The week before the race I really gave the bike some hard workouts to make sure it’d be fine when the real stuff began, and it didn’t miss a beat the whole time.
“It was a very tough race for two-strokes, especially on the high-speed terrain – but when it turned rough and technical I passed lots of riders.
“To win my class by over 18 minutes was very satisfying.”
Sherco’s second top gun at the 2021 FDR, the Mallee Motorcycles-backed Nathan Trigg, didn’t start the race after injuring his knee in a high-speed prologue crash on the 450 SEF Factory.
The 2021 FDR was won by defending champion David Walsh ahead of Jack Simpson and Beau Ralston.
In the car division, Australia’s two-time Dakar Rally champion Toby Price romped to victory.2021 FINKE DESERT RACE MOTORCYCLE RESULTS
“Sherco Australia extends its deepest sympathies to the fallen spectator’s family and friends," said Derek Grundy, Motul Pirelli Sherco Racing Team manager. "It’s an absolute tragedy that has hit the entire close-knit Finke Desert Race community hard.
“We’re proud of our team effort at Finke. Grabbo’s bike was fast, and geared to hit over 160km/h. That’s some serious speed and why he was hanging tough with so many of the big four-strokes It was impressive to watch!
“Also, a special mention to Chad’s Offroad Setups for helping us get the suspension dialled in.
“Nathan’s crash through the whoops in the prologue was unfortunate, as his preparation for the event was first-class. He’ll be back again, though.”
The next event for the Motul Pirelli Sherco Racing Team will be the Hattah Desert Race in Victoria from July 2-4, where Grabham (450 SEF Factory) will be joined by Jonte Reynders (300 SE Factory) and Justin Carafa (500 SEF Factory) – while Trigg will be back in action after his crash at Finke.