New doubts over whether Finke goes ahead

The 2022 Finke Desert Race

The 2022 Finke Desert Race

The fate of the 2023 Tatts Finke Desert Race is back in the balance with it coming to light that a necessary permit or permits are in fact outstanding.

A statement had been issued on the organisers’ behalf on May 24 advising “The Finke Desert Race Committee has received confirmation that Motorsport Australia (MSA) will issue a permit for the Auto (car) section of the 2023 Tatts Finke Desert Race.”

However, Speedcafe has now verified with Motorsport Australia, which sanctions the Cars section of the event, that it has not yet issued yet the permit for that contest.

The revelation comes just days out from scrutineering, on Friday, June 9.

There are also doubts as to whether even the Bikes section will be able to proceed.

“Motorsport Australia is working towards issuing a permit for the 2023 Finke Desert Race, subject to the spectator management plan being implemented to our satisfaction,” a Motorsport Australia spokesperson said.

“This can only be assessed when all of the relevant requirements have been actioned on the ground.

“Those specific safety measures are being actioned as part of the event’s preparation, including designated spectator zones and no-go areas, along with bunting and other work along the course.”

Only yesterday were the findings into a coronial inquest concerning the death of spectator Nigel Harris in the 2021 Finke event handed down.

Judge Elisabeth Armitage concluded that spectator safety measures were “entirely inadequate”, with blame shared between Motorsport Australia and Finke organisers (Finke Desert Race Incorporated, the official promoter).

She recommended the relevant NT government approvals only be granted if adequate safety measures had been implemented, and that a “comprehensive spectator management plan” be provided to the government.

However, Motorsport Australia’s permit is not necessarily the only hurdle at this point in time, with another matter possibly outstanding which could prevent the event from going ahead at all.

Speedcafe is awaiting confirmation from the NT Department of Infrastructure, Planning, & Logistics as to whether a road event permit has yet been issued.

That permit is required to close the roads between Alice Springs and Aputula (Finke), along which the 226km track runs.

Without that permit, which requires sign-off from within government, the Bikes section of the event cannot proceed either.

Notably, organisers have repeatedly put the call out to volunteers to help erect bunting and signage, via official Finke social media channels.

The presence or otherwise of bunting was a theme during the coronial inquest, with suggestions the late Harris may have inferred he was standing in a safe area given he was positioned beyond a stretch of bunting at the jump where he lost his life.

Bunting and signage will presumably be necessary to mark out the enlarged spectator setback, supervised public viewing areas, and spectator exclusion zones at high-risk areas which are set to be implemented this year.

Speedcafe reported on one of the tweets asking for help on the task last week, but another was posted to Finke’s Facebook page just yesterday.


“We need as many people as we can to help put out bunting and signage along the track Tuesday 6, Wednesday 7, Thursday 8 and Friday 9 June.

“The more people we have the quicker it gets done. We can work to the hours you have available.

“To sign up, please reach out by emailing:

[email protected] for more information.”

That a course like the Finke track might only be signed off on, and hence a permit issued, in the days out is not necessarily unusual.

It is, in fact, common practice with respect to a street circuit, for example, given track build is not usually finished until just before the event is due to start.

However, street circuits for car racing are characterised by repeatability in construction.

At Finke, new measures are being implemented this year, and hence the imperative for volunteer support in order for the event to go ahead, at least with respect to the Cars.


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