The event started well for Stokie, a resident of Alice Springs, when he posted the second best time in the prologue giving a great starting position for the trek down to Finke on day one.
Despite carrying a hand injury from a previous endurance event, Stokie gritted his teeth and manned up in the countries toughest race to reach Finke in second place and five minutes behind leader, David Walsh.
With a nights rest and a quick going over of the bike, Stokie was back in the saddle for the return run and out to close down the lead Walsh had. But just as the riders neared the first check point of the return leg, Walsh was stranded trackside and Stolkie inherited the lead. But with a hand swelling by the minute and still over 90 minutes of racing left, the 2017 Finke race winner was far from settled.
The dry conditions made the going challenging but Stokie stuck to his guns and continued to ride at speed with his grip on the bike weakening as the event wore on. His rivals started to close in but the North Territory native was determined to close the race out a winner and charged all the way to the finish line.
He stopped the clock at 4 hours 11 minutes, to take a narrow three-minute victory over Ivan Long in second and Luke Hayes in third, with just 30 seconds separating the minor placings.
The Active8 Yamalube Yamaha team embraced as they celebrated the win in what has been a long and challenging campaign.
“It’s been an unbelievable couple of days,” exclaims Stokie moments after he crossed the finish line. “The lead up to the event has been tough on the team with Beau Ralston hurting himself and then Josh Green having to pull out yesterday so it was a huge relief to get the win and reward the team for a massive effort.
“I knew catching David was a tough ask but sometimes things go your way and we got a little lucky with that but that’s the way it goes at Finke, it just isn’t an easy race to win.
“A huge thank you to everyone at Yamaha and the Active8 Yamaha team for their support and belief in my this year. I was bought in for events like this so it is an awesome feeling to do exactly as we set out to do.
“The WR500F was perfect from start to finish and the team did a great job with testing and the bike. Also, thank you to my friends and family who continue to support me each and every year and it’s great to have them all here with me on such a successful weekend,” Stokie ends.
As mentioned, the news wasn’t as good for team mate, Josh Green, who had to withdraw from the event during the final stages of day one. Green started the event exceptionally well and had moved into a podium position when he had a mechanical issue that forced him out of the race.
“It can be an emotionally challenging race here at Finke as it requires so much effort to be able to compete at this level, on this sort of terrain so to not be able to finish is heartbreaking for myself and the team,” Green explains.
“The Active8 Yamaha team put in so much effort for this race so we are all naturally disappointed not to get the result we both wanted or expected.
“But it’s awesome that Daymon was able to fly the team flag and get the job done for us. Congratulations to him and he deserved this win as it has been a long time coming for him,” Green said.
The Finke Desert Race is a gruelling event that is fast, frightening and not for the faint hearted. Competitors unleash their high horse-powered machines down the 200kilometre journey from Alice Springs to Finke in just under two hours before returning to Alice Springs the following day. Riders hit speeds over 170 kilometres per hour as they skim across the dry desert and rolling sand whoops that are just waiting to catch out unsuspecting riders.
It has the well-earned reputation of being the hardest event in the off-road calendar and its profile continues to grow as riders and teams try to conquer the old railway track that runs between Alice Springs and Finke.
“I have been to Finke a lot of times and it’s nice to finally win one,” states Active8 Yamaha manager, AJ Roberts. “It is a race that just punishes your mind, body and bike and to win it takes a lot of heart, courage and support from a lot of people.
“To see Daymon hit the finish line first and take the race win was a great moment for everyone involved with the team, from Ray and Kevin back at Yamaha in Brisbane, to the guys we have out here who haven’t had much sleep over the past week. We are pumped and will celebrate this one long and hard tonight,” AJ ends.
Yamaha also achieved top results the ATV and UTV under 1200cc segments with Yamaha taking the top three positions in the ATV’s with the Van Vliet brothers taking a strangle hold on the event while Jake Williams led home an all Yamaha top five in the UTV under 1200cc category.
2017 Finke Desert Race Results
1st Daymon Stokie – 4: 11.12.5 (Yamaha WR500F)
2nd Ivan Long – 4:15.07.0
3rd Luke Hayes – 4:15.38.1
4th Kent Collins – 4:24.02.0
5th Sam Davie - 4:26.54.7