Condobolin’s Jacob Smith powered his way to second place on the podium at the 2022 Tatts Finke Desert Race.
The Tatts Finke Desert Race is the Ultimate Off-Road Motorsport Event in Australia – held in Central Australia during the Queen’s Birthday long weekend in June every year.
Smith, part of the Schwarz Racing team stayed in contention for a maiden Finke Desert Race victory over the course of the event, but just missed out on the top spot to David Walsh. This was his 13th year in a row taking on the challenging course.
He and his FE 501 Husqvarna rode hard to win the Prologue, and then set the second fastest time on the way from Alice Springs to Finke on Sunday, 12 June.
“From my point of view, everything went to plan,” Smith explained.
“I qualified on pole position – I was the fastest qualifier on the Saturday which was pretty cool.
“So I started on the front row and that set my weekend up really. The race starts two at a time, and I was obviously on the front row. I was in the lead for the first 30 kilometres and then had a bit of a moment, where I nearly had a big crash – but was lucky enough for that not to happen.
“The guy I started with got by me and it then took me some 100 or so kilometres to get back past him. Other than that, I ended up second on the podium. Pretty much everything went to plan, which you cannot say very often.
“I would have loved to have won, but David Walsh who won, is a local guy up there, and he is very good and gets to do a lot of pre-running of the course. It is quite hard to compete with someone like that who is a good rider and he gets to ride the track on a regular basis.
“If I wanted to go and compete with him, I would spend 60 hours riding the course and the few months leading up to the event, which is not possible for me. But taking that into consideration I am pretty happy with how I went and with my result.”
The Provisional Top 10 Bike placings were David Walsh, Jacob Smith, Jack Simpson, Korey McMahon, Brodie Waters, Ivan Long, Luke Hayes, Sam Davie, Ben Grabham and Rick Ireland.
The Top 10 Provisional Car placings were Toby Price, Aaron James, Brent Martin, Shannon Rentsch, Tyler Owen, Hayden Bentley, Jake Swinglehurst, Brent Smoothy, Greg Gartner and Kent Battle.
Smith was joined on the Podium by his fellow Husqvarna rider Jack Simpson, who took home third. There was a mix of Husqvarna Motorcycles inside the top 10 outright, including Ivan Long in sixth, Sam Davie eighth and Rick Ireland completing the top 10. In another standout performance, Billy Hargy took out the 250cc class honours and also claimed 20th overall aboard his FE 250.
He added while he did not train on the Finke track much prior to the event, he did work hard in other areas to prepare for the race.
“I did a fair bit of training in Condobolin with gym work and everything, but as for actual riding goes not really. Normally, you can go up and pre-ride the race track. A lot of the top guys spend from four to six weeks pre-running before the race. Some spend an entire month prior to the race getting ready and riding the track most days,” Smith revealed.
“I drove up there and got to ride the track for four days and then drove home and then went back and just raced.
“This was my 13th Finke in a row, so I had been up and down the track a lot, but it does make a difference when you get across the track a lot close to the race. You just know where everything is and you can plan your ride a little bit more.
“I certainly know where the track goes, that’s for sure but when you get down to that top level it can become every single corner and every single bump – when you ride it enough you know where everything is. But for me I know the track but do not know what is exactly in front of me.”
Smith said riding at the top level meant making sacrifices, including leaving his family to compete, but he acknowledged he received a lot of support from those around him.
“I had to leave my little two-year-old boy Bodhi and my wife Rhiannon at home. He was pretty devastated I was away for two weeks,” he stated.
“That is the hardest part being away from your family. Me leaving Rhiannon at home alone with Bodhi.
“My mum and dad were on a trip, but they ended up in Alice Springs for the race which was awesome. My two brothers-in-law David Geeves and Thomas Jacobson, they both raced as well, which is cool. They come up with me, and hung out for the week which was nice.
“Normally there is a lot of Condo people at Finke, but not as many made the trek to camp and watch this year. I definitely have plenty of support when I am racing from family and friends.”
Even after his great effort at this year’s Finke, Smith is unsure if he will contest another time at the renowned event.
“I am not too sure to be honest if I will have another crack at Finke,” he said.
“I sort of had it in my mind that this would be my last Finke. It is probably about time I hung up the professional racing boots and maybe retire from racing at an elite level.
“But you never know what opportunities might arise. I really do want to win the race that’s for sure.
“But while there is not as much money in it anymore, and not as much support it is quite difficult to compete with guys like David, and the guys that are getting full factory support. We will just wait and see how things turn out.
“I just want to enjoy and take this result in, best I can. I definitely acted like it was going to be my last time at Finke, trying to take it all in and enjoy the experience and my time away. If I do call time on my career, I can be content with how the race went.”
While Smith is considering retiring from riding at an elite leve, he will never lose his passion for dirt bikes.
“I will never stop racing locally, it will just be at the top level that I will retire from,” he said.
“I will always ride and enjoy myself. There will also come a time when I will just be able to help out at races like Yellow Mountain and Condo 750. No doubt I will always be riding dirt bikes. It just being away from your family and the work that you have to put in at the top level is massive. It will be more so riding just for fun.”
Smith said he is most looking forward to riding with his son, Bodhi but there will be no pressure for him to follow in his father’s footsteps.
“Bodhi is two at the moment and he is already mad on motorbikes,” he disclosed.
“He shows a lot of interest – Every single day he has one of my jerserys on and wants to go racing and pretends like he is packing up the car to go away racing.
“I will certainly not be pushing riding onto Bodhi – I will support him but definitely won’t be pushing him out to the shed and saying let’s go.
“I look forward to being able to go riding or racing with Bodhi down the track.
“That is what I am looking forward to the most from now – not so much as competing at the top level any more.”