South Australian Husqvarna rider Ivan Long pulled off one of the great Finke comebacks when he rode to a well-deserved class victory, and second outright in this year‰Ûªs Tatts Finke Desert Race.
Long, a previous podium finisher in the event, put together a support effort with Husqvarna just five months ago, and surprised many by choosing a Husqvarna FE 450 as his weapon of choice, rather than the full, half-litre capacity traditionally associated with outright contention.
But it didn‰Ûªt hold him back ‰ÛÒ Long qualified second-fastest, arrived in Finke in fifth, and then pushed through to second on the return leg to finish behind overall winner Damon Stokie, and ahead of Luke Hayes.
As always though, the devil is in the detail, and Long‰Ûªs feat was made vastly more impressive by the revelation that he rode 70 kilometres after a flat rear tyre, which disintegrated, leaving nothing but a bare rim!
With 80 kilometres to go, 28-year-old Long pitted for fuel and a new wheel, but with his rear brake bashed to death by flapping tyre pieces, he opted to simply sever the line and ride a third of Australia‰Ûªs fastest off-road course without a rear brake!
From an estimated position outside the top-twenty, Long redoubled his efforts to the Finke river and beyond and arrived at the overnight stop in the top five, from where he was able to launch his attack on the podium yesterday.
‰ÛÏWe would have been happy with fifth, but to end up second is bloody incredible," Long siad. "I‰Ûªve never seen that track that rough in my life! You had to be loose to get over it. It‰Ûªs like a monkey off my back though.
"After the flat tyre yesterday, I thought the monkey was alive and well, but I rode all the way in to the 80km mark and got to the fuel stop on the rim. From there I twisted that throttle south as far as I could and I literally couldn‰Ûªt stop, but my GDR suspension was tracking so straight I got back up to fifth. We dialled it on hard on the way back, and after I got Hayes, I had a big moment 10kms from the finish, and then I thought, hang on‰Û_ maybe we‰Ûªll take second.
"I need to thank Schwarz Excavations, Buttrose Earthmoving and Husqvarna Australia, as without all three of these this couldn‰Ûªt have happened. To throw this program together in the last five months, and achieve this result against the factory teams is just unbelievable!‰Û