Off Road

2005 Gascoyne Dash Desert Race report

Author: Garry Connell

Posted:

The Gascoyne Dash is an extreme off-road desert race in Western Australia winding through mountain ranges, desert plains and dunes, the vast Gascoyne River bed and scrub.
Vernon Strange backed up his 2004 win by making it a double in 2005. Photo: Jennifer Paete
It is a two day race covering over 550 kilometres starting on the edge of the desert and finishing at the sea by Carnarvon. The "Dash" is a huge logistical operation involving a six seater medical chopper, mustering chopper, fixed wing planes, and a high tech communication network spanning the 550 kilometre race. Up for grabs were over $13,000 worth of prizes. The event started on Friday 21 October with a 10 km prologue at Coonantha on Bidgemia station, 35 km from Gascoyne Junction. 64 bike and quad competitors lined up for the start. Some serious exotic machinery was present with the ex Andy Caldecott KTM 660 Rallye bike being ridden by Rob Pollard and a factory special KTM 613cc race bike being piloted by Warren Strange. The race begin in earnest on Saturday at 7am with a 187 kilometre track around Bidgemia at the base of the Kennedy Ranges, finishing back at Coonantha, a fully catered, licensed camp site where entertainment was provided late into the night. Day 1 provided some fast and furious racing with Warren Strange from Kalgoorlie leading the way after taking pole in the prologue. The advantage of being first out of the blocks is the lack of dust and a clear run make the best time on the course. The down side to being the first rider way is the ever present emu and kangaroo hazards. Despite a sweep of the course by a small mustering helicopter Warren still collected a cow and while very lucky not to be hurt or damage to his bike, his brother Vernon Strange from Southern Cross quickly seized the advantage and lead the field home for the day.
Tom Urshich. Photo: Jennifer Paete
The Sunday leg on Day 2 included a 160km run down the length of the Gascoyne River bed that took its toll of riders and bikes with many DNF's. It was all about stamina and endurance to maintain a fast but smooth flowing pace down the soft river sand bed with many hidden traps. Heat and exhaustion made the remote checkpoints and fuel pit stops a welcome but brief relief. Double Camelbacks with water or Gatorade were the order of the day. The afternoon run from Rocky Pool, the exit from the river bed, was a high speed blast on station tracks that were typical of many special stages in the renowned Australian Safari cross country rally event. The front runners were frequently topping speeds in excess of 170 kmh. By this time Scott Bourne from Perth on the big Husaberg 650 FE was throwing down a serious challenge to the leading Vernon Strange and his amazingly fast Yamaha WR450F. Over the last 20 or so kilometres of the course large numbers of Carnarvon locals had gathered at vantage points to watch the action. Even the local police force had chipped in to assist at the final checkpoint and refuel stop at the crossing of the Great Northern Highway.
Jaime Morgan. Photo: Jennifer Paete
Strange managed to hold off a flying Bourne on the final leg Into the Carnarvon Racecourse, with Jamie Morgan on a KTM 525 EXC in a close third. Gavin Phillips was the first 250cc class rider home while the very fast Baden Griffen blitzed the quad field and the majority of the bikes with a 16th outright placing. So for the second year running Southern Cross drilling contractor and prospector Vernon Strange was announced King of the River for the 2005 Kickstarters Gascoyne Dash at the presentation of awards at the Carnarvon Racecourse on Sunday night. Vernon won 1st Outright and 1st in the Over 250cc Class and at 40 years of age and some 19 years racing experience he has not lost his enthusiasm to continue participating in next years event. "The "Dash" is the toughest event I have ever raced in but I will be back next year and I'll be bringing even more riders from the Goldfields to come and participate with me", said Strange. "The highlight was Day 1 where I got to achieve some pretty high speeds racing around Bidigemia Station. "It was a great event and I am looking forward to having a go again next year." The 2005 Kickstarters Gascoyne Dash attracted 64 bike and quad competitors of which, 36 finished the event. A key feature of the event was the toughness of the course with riders commenting on the challenge of riding the "Dash" and it measuring up against some of the toughest international enduro and rallye courses they have ridden. With big crowds of spectators both at the start, key vantage points along the course and the finish at the Carnarvon Racecourse the "Dash" is destined to continue growing as the ultimate outback adventure and will soon rival the annual Finke desert race at Alice Springs. Main Photo: Scott Bourne at fullnoise
Credit: John West

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