Skip to content


Is the Finke Desert Race on the decline or are the low entry numbers simply a reflection of the current economical state of Australia?

The Tatt’s Finke Desert Race has enjoyed immense popularity and rapid growth over the past 20 years. The raw excitement of this high-speed race combined with the unique location where it is held makes it truly unique. The mystique of the Outback, the rough and tumble of the race track, the adrenaline of participating and the sheer excitement of experiencing the sights, smells, sounds and atmosphere of a dirt bike howling through the desert is electrifying.

The welcoming nature of the thousands of people who attend this race is what is regarded as the Finke Family. The bond created between fellow competitors is born out of respect for each other and the many sacrifices and commitments that are required to complete this race. Countless friendships have been born at this event that stand the test of time. There are thousands of stories about the generous hospitality shown by the people of Alice Springs, Another endearing feature of this great event.

The popularity of Finke reached its peak of rider entries on the 40th Finke in 2015 with 593 riders listed to do battle, however 120 riders failed to finish, some unable to even reach the start line.  The rise of Finke popularity has been fairly steady, the year 2006 saw 340 entries with 279 riders capable of finishing. In 2002 rider entries peaked at 235 with 191 making it across the finish line. Finke has never been easy and it seems that it’s all just a bit too hard for some in 2024.


Alarm bells started ringing when rider entries opened for this year’s race. At the time of writing the entry list showed just 361 riders had entered. Has the Finke bubble burst? Has the cost of living caught up to dirt bikes or has the well-publicized crime reports of Alice Springs scared people off, or are riders hanging off for a couple of years so they can participate in the 50th Finke in 2026?

Finke Desert Race President Antony Yoffa has ridden the highs and the lows of the great race, literally and metaphorically and he answers the critical questions right here, right now.

“The race is facing some challenges with significant increases in operating costs and the economy isn’t helping. Those two things coming together is making people rethink their priorities. The good news is our sponsors are still with us. In fact, there is increased interest from sponsors and interest from different competitors”.

“We have Supercar legend Craig Lowndes competing this year in a factory backed Chevrolet Silverado in the auto division. So we are getting interest from left-field, if you like, and that is coming from the event being so well established.”

Despite the outside motorcycle industry interest in Finke, rider numbers are low with many armchair experts blaming the relatively new rider competency requirements. Finke can no longer be a rider’s first-ever race. For a number of years in recent times, 50 percent of the rider field was made up of first-time Finke competitors, with a portion of these racing a dirt bike for the first time.

“The race did not run in 2020 during Covid then there was a spike in entries in 2021and since then, there has been a steady decline. In 2022 we introduced a number of changes including minimum competency requirements for both the moto and auto division which aren’t that onerous. I think that now people understand them, it’s not that difficult. Some people say these requirements are the issue with lower entry numbers, but I firmly believe that cost of living is the issue.”

“In 2022 we had independent economic research done on the race that showed the total expenditure stimulus from the Finke Desert Race was $12.4 million into the Northern Territory, that’s a lot. In 2023 it was $8.8 million. That’s the difference in a decline in 100 competitors and the six or eight people that come with them as family and support crew along with a significant number of spectators that did not make the journey.”

“We are a destination event where almost 90 per cent of competitors and spectators travel from interstate. We attributed that decline to the costs of living due to the National economic situation and the elephant in the room, what was going on in Alice and the national focus on it.”


Alice Springs is a beautiful place but it has received more than its fair share of bashing from mainstream media in the past 18 months. Youth crime and indigenous upheaval make for easy news in the big cities and suddenly Alice Springs became the crime capitol of Australia. Let’s not forget the hype surrounding the Voice to Parliament that only fueled media beating up cheap and easy news for the ignorant at the time.

Motorcycling Australia only added to the frenzy when they hastily pulled the 2023 Australian Junior Motocross Championship from the town and moved it to Darwin blaming safety fears. As a result, plenty of people headed for Finke in 2023 stayed at home with Yoffa making comment on the situation.

“The media coverage last year was a factor in people visiting Alice Springs. We had a significant number of enquiries last year from competitors, particularly about bringing their families with them. They wanted to know if it was safe to bring their family and many of them decided to come by themselves. When you have significantly fewer entries coupled with significantly fewer support teams coming with them, less people come to town and less money is spent in the town. It’s an unfortunate situation that we have no control over.”


While negative armchair critics declare Finke is failing, Yoffa points out a number of reasons why 2024 is a great opportunity for anyone interested in racing or spectating at the Finke Desert Race.

“You get a chance to ride with champions and to get closer than you might normally. I remember we had 305 riders in the 25th event in 2001 and it was a small collegiate group of people where knowledge was shared and people would enjoy each other’s company. It becomes more difficult when you have 500-plus riders to maintain that sort of closer bond between riders.”

Yoffa was quick to point out the possibility of history repeating in 2024 with Alice Springs local David Walsh on the verge of equaling the record for consecutive race wins.

“Ben Grabham has won four Finkes and Toby Price has won six on a bike, but neither of them strung together four in a row. Stephen Greenfield also has four wins but not four in a row. David Walsh has four in a row and is going for five this year. No one else has done that except for Randall Gregory.”

“The auto division entry numbers are still really good and let’s face it, spectators come to watch the top flight riders and they come to watch the cars because they’re all unique, you can’t just buy one off the shelf. They’re loud, they’re super-fast and they’re an incredible spectacle. It’s just like in the move, Finke: There and Back which is the other good news story surrounding Finke at the moment. The movie is featuring on Netflix and reports suggest it is doing quite well in the ratings.”

“The other thing is the average punter will never get to see a trophy truck in action. In Alice Springs, you can be 50 metres away on an elevated spot seeing and hearing these beasts and after the race you can speak with the person who drove it.”

The Finke Desert Race will be amazing like it always is and if you do go in 2024, maybe you’ll have a really great time too.


The deserts of the Australian Outback are dangerous and the Finke track is no different. The conditions are harsh, it’s lonely and it can be deadly. Never head out into the desert alone and always be prepared with an emergency first aid kit, reliable transport and enough fuel, food and water.

No one is owed anything out there yet every year riders fail to respect the environment they are in and when they come unstuck, it’s someone else’s fault. For this reason, it is advised that riders do not pre-run/practice the Finke Desert Race track. If the urge is too much, contact Outback Motorcycle Adventures who are based in Alice Springs. They run tours on the track and offer race packages for the Finke Desert Race that includes bike hire, practice time, bike setup and vital inside information.

Alternatively, contact Grabbo’s Trail & Track. The four-time Finke winner also offers Finke Desert Race packages plus coaching in the desert. Be smart. Be safe.


Released in 2018, Finke: There and Back is now screening on Netflix. This amazing movie is directed by Alice Springs local and frequent Finke Desert Race competitor, Dylan River. The award-winning cinematographer nails the pure essence of this great race with some incredible footage and offers a great insight into what actually goes on during the race with some up-close and personal pieces on a number of riders and support crew.

River showcases the magic of the desert and the passion of the people that love this race and the place. The ratings do not lie. You know it’s a big deal when celebrity petrol-head Eric Bana narrates the thing.


There are a bunch of legitimate reasons why the 2024 Finke Desert Race will be well worth attending as a rider and a spectator. Firstly, with lower numbers than previous years, there will be more options for accommodation in Alice Springs or a quiet camping spot along the track. It will also be quieter on the roads with less traffic making it easier to get around in the lead-up to the race and on race weekend. Riders will face a track that will potentially be less beaten-up with fewer numbers and more than likely a race event that flows smoother making it even more fun.

The other great point that many have not yet considered is that current King of The Desert, David Walsh could become only the second rider in history to claim five consecutive Finke Desert Race wins. As it stands, Walsh is only the second rider ever to win four consecutive Finke Desert Races along side the man regarded as the greatest of all time, Randall Gregory who dominated this event for five straight years between 1991 and 1995.

Alice Springs remains a beautiful place with plenty to see and do. Yes, there is some bad around the place and if you go looking for it, you can find it, just as you can in any town across Australia. But what you don’t get in any other town is Australia’s greatest desert race.