2011 Kings of the Desert, Greg Gartner and Jamie Jennings returned to Alice Springs on the Queens Birthday Long Weekend on the hunt for a second Tatts Finke Desert Race Title. After three days of racing, thousands of whoops and almost four hours of limiter bashing, the South Australian team piloted the #410 R&J Batteries Extreme 2WD Ford Truck into fourth outright and third in class. Missing out on another Finke podium by a slender 29 seconds.
The race weekend kicked off with a re-envigorated show ‘n’ shine at the Finke start/finish line complex on the Friday night. Ahead of scrutiny, a last minute engine miss was diagnosed and sorted before the #410 R&J Batteries truck was parked up and put on display on the straight. Thousands gathered trackside to check out the race machinery before it hit the desert, with the new Greg Gartner Motorsport posters going like wildfire while Ian Moss belted out the tunes on the stage.
Mossy was replaced by the sweet notes of the Craig Carrison built V8 during Saturday mornings prologue. Gartner and Jennings locked in 6th on the grid and second in the Extreme 2wd Class with a time of 5min 21sec.
“We had a good run in prologue” said Greg, “we had a couple of moments but were reasonably smooth. With 128 entries we thought we may get pushed back to 15th, but to stay in sixth shows me that we have stepped it up a bit and are pretty close to the top of the field.”
“On the run down to Finke on Sunday we started off well and really just ran a race to get there. We could have taken a lot more risks, but didn’t do that. I was worried about fuel, which turned out to be well founded as there was only 6 out of 230 litres left in the tank. Unfortunately I had a run off at about the 180k mark, went through some trees and staked a tyre. It cost some time, but I can’t blame anyone but myself.”
Gartner and Jennings crossed the day one finish line in 1 hour 53min 20sec, placing them sixth outright on a congested leaderboard led by the #30 twin turbo V6 Probuggy of Owen and Ryan.
After a night under the stars in Finke, Gartner launched the #410 R&J Batteries Ford Truck away from the Finke startline at 7:18:08am.
“I got up on Monday morning with my race face on. I made sure the truck was full of fuel and I was pretty committed from the start. I think we were the only ones to launch it flat off the table top at Finke. Knowing that I had to try and make up two minutes on Price, Gallard, Burrows and company we pushed hard and could see the helicopters not too far ahead. I couldn’t believe when we got in to Alice Springs, here was Beau and Toby in the arena at the same time as us. But unfortunately we couldn’t quite get them. We were second quickest on the way home with a 1:53:06 and I was happy with that.”
Gartner and Jennings crossed the Alice Springs finish line in a total time of 3hr 46min 27sec, for the race down and back to Finke. Which left the South Australian team just 29 seconds short of third place.
“My run off on the way up pretty much cost me, but nearly everyone could say that all day, you take it for what it is. Fourth overall and third in class was great, we are happy!”
“We were really confident on the way back home. We were launching the truck off the rises and where the crowd was and it handled well. In the whoops you need to tell yourself to put the gas down and pull up gears, it is the only way to do it. We saw the limiter in fifth and clicked into sixth gear over the whoops, which is 180kph+. You just hope the steering doesn’t break!”
“It’s not 5 seconds these days, you are pushing for every second. It is just flat from the time you start to the time you get home. There is no question about it, Finke is a sprint race.”
It wasn’t all smooth sailing in the lead up to the race, with Greg having surgery to plate his busted collar bone just a few weeks before the race and the truck sitting in the shed minus an engine just seven days from kick off in the desert.
“A big thanks to Craig Carrison Race Engines. He worked real hard to get it going for us and it ran perfectly in the red centre. We only had a block the Saturday before the event due to the ECU leaning out the engine at Sunraysia. He rebuilt the engine all Saturday and Saturday night, and put it in the truck Sunday night and Monday.”
The Ford V8 received it’s normal baptism of fire once it hit the track during the prologue, “As soon as it was built, the engine was on the limiter. Craig often looks at the logging and frowns at how hard I treat the gear. Actually, he frowns all the time with a bit of a smile. He reckons if he can make it last with me he is pretty right.”
“The #410 truck is in great shape after Finke. The drivetrain is now finally where it needs to be and we are real impressed with the Albins transmission package we’ve got now. We’re keen to test these components, so we’ll leave the gearbox in it, drop some new pistons into the engine and just give it a bath before we head to the final round of the Australian Off Road Championship, the Riverland Enduro in July.”
“But before we hit the dirt again we will be lighting up the Toyo’s on the tar in Townsville in the Stadium Super Truck with the support of R&J Batteries, Fuchs Oils and Toyo Tires. I’m looking forward to it, as I wasn’t overly confident at Clipsal due to the broken collar bone sustained at the SST race in Sydney last December and I was still hurting a fair bit. I’ll give it some more rest over the next couple of weeks and I will be good to go.” Said Greg
The Greg Gartner Motorsport #410 Ford F-150 Trophy Truck is supported by:
R&J Batteries, Fuchs Oils, Toyo Tyres Australia, ATI Industrial, Craig Carrision Race Engines, JB Irrigation, CJM Attachments, CAPPA Motorbodies and Albins.