Finke Desert Race organisers have announced significant rule changes ahead of the June event in an effort to improve safety for spectators.
Prospective competitors for next year’s event that have not participated in the Finke Desert Race before will need to satisfy organisers of their capability by showing that they have competed in another similar off-road race, either internationally or locally.
The rule changes also see the elimination of quad bikes from competition, and extra steps will be taken to protect spectators including additional signage and exclusion zones in high-risk areas along the 230-kilometre track.
Historically, the Finke Desert Race has been unique in that it allows novice riders to compete against professional athletes, but tightening safety standards and a significant increase in speed from the front runners has forced changes to regulations.
“We used to be quite proud of the fact that anybody could get a licence and could compete in our event,” Finke Desert Race president Antony Yoffa told ABC News.
“The average, everyday punter could race against the country’s best, or arguably the world’s best.
“The level and standard of the competition has gone up, the speed has gone up, the deterioration of the track is quite marked.
“All those things really contribute to us having to say, ‘If you’re a complete novice, this event’s not for you.'”
Previously, the Finke Desert Race has seen around 600 competitors in the motorcycle category. In some years half of that number could be first timers.
While the updated rules disqualify many prospective competitors, riders who fall outside the criteria will have the opportunity to apply for an exemption, which will be assessed on a case-by-case basis by the race committee.
News of the rule changes follows the death of Nigel Harris, a spectator who was struck by a competing vehicle at this year’s event.
According to Motorsport Australia director Michael Smith, the rule changes are not directly linked to Nigel Harris’s death.
“I think it’s just moving towards what we would consider being an appropriate measure for what we now consider to be a major event,” said Mr Smith.
The 2022 Tatts Finke Desert Race will take place on June 10-13 in Alice Springs.
Spencer has a keen eye for hard news, and does some of his best living on deadline day. He loves more than anything to travel on his motorcycle, and is adamant that Melbourne Bitter is a world-class lager. He also knows how to operate the big computery thing in the office. By night, Spencer plays guitar with Melbourne punk outfit LOJO LOUTS.