Honda rider Grabham wins Finke
Honda rider Ben Grabham has taken outright honors in a field of 500 bikes at the 2008 Finke Desert Race.
11 June 2008 – The Queen’s birthday weekend once again had Australia’s best desert racers doing battle at the Tattersall’s Finke Desert Race in the Northern Territory. Such is the popularity with the iconic event that 500 entries were accepted in the Bike category with a further 70 entries being put on the waiting list.
GHR Honda riders Ben Grabham and Jason Hill returned to do battle with local favourite and Desert Edge rider Ryan Branford, all of whom made up last year’s podium on their CRF450R’s. Opposition teams were determined to break Honda’s stranglehold with riders such as Brad Williscroft, Caleb Auricht and Craig Carmichael the most likely to prove difficult to beat.
The prologue track was treacherous after recent rains, however qualifying went ahead as scheduled with the top 20 being waived off at one minute intervals. Precision Honda dealer and GHR rider Jason Hill took honours in the prologue whilst Grabham rode cautiously and qualified 10th. Unfortunately, brother Damien Grabham copped an eye full of roost and ending up way down the field after struggling with his vision. Day one started with Jason Hill leading the field away on his GHR Honda CRF450R, a position he held until the 170 km mark where he hit a lip exposed by the high powered buggies on their first pass of the recently graded track.
According to Team Manager Glenn Hoffmann, many of the top ten also crashed at the same point until officials were able to caution the rest of the field. At the end of a very tough day one, Grabham held the overall lead from Ryan Branford by a mere 33 seconds.
“I had some problems with refuelling and also hit the lip that a lot of guys crashed on smashing my body armour. I was pleasantly surprised to learn I was going to start day two in the lead,” the Bathurst based rider said.
Team mate Jason Hill was in a lot of pain after his get off but bravely continued to finish 5th outright for the day. AFL legend and GHR Honda rider Tony Lockett, who joined the team at the event for the first time, passed so many riders on day one that he said he lost count.
“Yeah the prologue was in mud and I don’t normally ride in those conditions, so it was good to give the 450X its head today.” Tony went from 444th position to 294th on the road. Day two started at Finke and returned to Alice Springs with Ben leading Ryan by a gap of just 33 seconds. Both riders battled hard for the entire 228km track with young Branford getting to the first fuel stop in front. Ben managed to gap Ryan on the next two legs to claim his back to back victories with a margin of only 58 seconds.
“I knew I had to give it everything to stay ahead of Ryan. We modified the bike overnight to suit the weather and track conditions, and the mechanics did a great job so it was perfect for the return leg,” he said. “It was so rough and I am rapt to get two wins in a row. A big thanks to everyone who helped out”. Hill had to retire due to his earlier injuries after 2 km on the return leg whilst Damien Grabham came up through the field to finish 14th outright.
“Lockett cleaned up even more riders to finish the event in 224th position after starting in 444th position which is a huge effort,” Hoffmann noted. Honda riders finished the event with the dominant outright results and included the most overall finishers. The GHR Honda team’s next major desert challenge is the Honda Hattah Desert Enduro in July where they will be looking to repeat their Finke result and win for the second year running.