KTM Off Road Racing Team riders Tye Simmonds and Daniel Sanders gave KTM Australia the coveted Finke/Hattah double for the third straight year as they powered to an exciting 1-2 in this year’s Hattah Desert race near Mildura.
Just three weeks after Toby Price claimed the first of the country’s big winter desert races – the Finke – Finke runner-up Simmonds and AORC championship leader Sanders fought out an intense battle for supremacy for the second, exchanging the lead approximately 10 times during the third and fourth laps of the rugged four-hour desert epic before Simmonds was able to break clear.
Switching from his regular KTM 300 two-stroke to one of the team’s mighty 500EXC desert weapons, Sanders took the early advantage as he qualified fastest, earning the right to lead the field out onto the track today, but when he took a tumble while battling over the lead with Simmonds late on the fourth lap, his team mate was able to open a gap that Sanders could not fully close.
It was almost a 1-2-3, with Finke class winner Nathan Trigg holding third on a KTM 500 EXC until the very last lap, when his bib mousse rear tyre failed, and he was forced to limp home in 11th place on just the rim.
At the end of four hours Simmonds won the event by over 12 seconds from Sanders, their battle dragging them almost 11 minutes clear of third placed Beau Ralston.
Former pro motocrosser Jack Simpson continued his off-road racing success, backing up his Finke class victory in the 250cc four-stroke class with an identical one at Hattah, aboard the same KTM 250 SX-F. This time however, Simpson cracked the top 10 outright – an incredible feat on a quarter-litre machine up against the big bores in heavy sand.
Other notable performances included that of David Walsh, the Finke podium finisher coming to terms with the vastly different requirements at Hattah to finish 11th outright and fifth in the big bores class.
Josh Murtagh won the under 250 cc two-stroke class on a KTM250SX, finishing 19th overall in the process, while Danielle Foot won the Ladies category on a KTM250SX-F.
Tye Simmonds (KTM500EXC) – “I hit a tree on my last lap and my hands are pretty torn up but I’m over the moon. It was a hard one today; I definitely worked for every minute of the four hours, but it’s definitely the biggest one I’ve achieved so far. It was on all day with Chucky, I had a bit of a game plan and by the fourth lap I realised it wasn’t going to work. I wanted to try and outrun him and get out of there, but we probably swapped for the lead 8 to 10 times over two laps. The first time he passed me he was screaming his head off, I sort of got a bit of a kick out of that, it was funny! But to have that many good clean passes, it was good racing, and for it to come down to the wire that close, it was an awesome finish for us two boys and the team. But then I nearly had mishap and he did have one, and I managed to scoot away. It wasn’t a big win, but 12 seconds, we’ll take it.”
Daniel Sanders (KTM500EXC) – “I got the win at Prologue and it was good to take off first; that was a good experience. Tye blew past me a couple of minutes in, and I sat on him for a couple of laps. As soon as the lappers came into play on the third lap, we passed each other about 10 times, it was sick. I had good fun with him, it was pretty funny, he’d get screwed up by a lapper and I’d come past him, giggling. Then on the fourth lap he had a big moment and just saved it and then I hit the same thing after him and cartwheeled and lost him. I still had a bent front end on the fifth and sixth lap and I couldn’t get my head around it, but I pulled the gap down in the last two laps and got down to 12 seconds, so it sort of my fault I lost it. But that’s racing, and it was a good experience and good fun out there. The whole team did good. The 500 was amazing, we pulled away from third place to we were 11 minutes clear.
I’m happy for Tye, and 1,2 is pretty good, it’s just unfortunate that Triggy had a little problem and lost his position or we would have had a 1, 2, 3. It was a good race, and good for the crowd too, I’m pretty sure everyone enjoyed it.”
David Walsh (KTM500EXC) – “The last time I finished a Hattah I was actually riding a KTM in 2009, but since then I’ve had nothing but non-finishes on other brands, so it was good to see what the chequered flag looked like! It was a good day, I felt really good up until about lap six, but I haven’t done enough of this deep sand and turning stuff, so once I got to lap six it sort of killed me and my fitness dropped off which is probably my biggest disappointment for the day. I felt like I probably should have been in the top 10. I’m more used to straight lines and big whoops, that’s what I do! It’s good to be a part of the whole team. Chucky and Tye really taught me a lot about the race and how to attack it. Without them I probably would have been further back.”
Jack Simpson (KTM250 SX-F) – “Four hours is a long time. I’m stoked, I’ve only done Hattah as a junior on a completely different track back, so you could almost say I’ve never done it before. I had a good time, on the little bike I was battling with Walshy and Damon Stokie who are big names in the desert, so that’s pretty good. It’s the same bike and engine that I raced at Finke, just with a top-end freshen up after Finke, she’s a beast! The start was pretty intense, I had a couple of 500s go hooking past me like I was standing still, which was expected. Now I know what I need for with both Finke and Hattah, I just want to come back on a big bike and put it up the pointy end.”
KTM Off-Road Racing Team Manager Ben Grabham – “Hattah is always a tough one. Probably the biggest one for numbers, since there was something like 650 riders. She’s a big weekend, with scrutineering on Friday night, and a short, sharp prologue on Saturday, and then into it Sunday.
Our weekend started great. Chucky showed some amazing speed winning prologue, and Tye in second set the boys up with a good starting position. It’s a big old slog out there over the four hours that they race. Our boys pretty much checked out from lap one, and they always had over a five-minute lead back to third which made for an exciting battle and some pretty intense fuel stops at the tent! I’m pumped for Tye; definitely his biggest win, and he deserves it because Chucky is one of the fittest riders I know – he had a few get-offs, but Tye probably had to work harder than he ever has to get this and I couldn’t be happier. The preparation and effort that Mick and all the boys put in was unreal.
We actually looked like we had the 1, 2, 3 happening again with one lap to go, and poor Nathan Trigg had a rear mousse let go on him, and limped home on a rim in 11th place. It was just a freak thing, but it stopped us from an otherwise perfect run.
Walshy on another brand hasn’t finished the last five Hattahs, but this year in very different conditions from Alice Springs and he soldiered on to get a top 12 and finally see that chequered flag after five years of trying, so that was pretty awesome.”
Hattah Desert Race Outright:
1. Tye SIMMONDS KTM500EXC 4:06:28.673
2. Daniel SANDERS KTM500EXC 4:06:41.133
3. Beau RALSTON 4:17:11.530
4. Glenn KEARNEY 4:23:45.385
5. Peter BOYLE 4:30:50.831