WARRNAMBOOL racer Matt Coleman has defied the bumps of outback Northern Territory to post his best result in an iconic desert race.
Coleman and his navigator, Millicent’s Shaun Teagle, finished runner-up in the car/buggy section of the Finke Desert Race, a 460-kilometre off-road epic from Alice Springs to Finke and back.
The pair also won their pro buggy class by completing the trek in three hours, 59 minutes and 34 seconds.
The Finke Desert Race wrapped up on Monday and Coleman yesterday reflected on his best result in Australia’s most prestigious off-road race.
The 29-year-old, driving the #55 Chevrolet LS2 6000cc buggy, qualified in 10th spot but surged into fourth with an incident-free first day after dust settled at the 100km mark.
Two retirements early on day two allowed him to rise into second, where he stayed for the rest of the race.
“All I had to do was keep it straight,” he said.
Coleman said he ventured north believing a top-three finish was achievable.
“I thought I could’ve got an outright place if all went to plan,” he said.
“You’ve got to get good luck on your side, no doubt about that.
“I was lucky a couple of cars dropped out, which gave me a dust-free run.
“I had no mechanical issues at all.”
The Finke has become an annual pilgrimage for competitors, with a host of top drivers bypassing the opening round of the Australian championship series to compete.
Preparing a car which can handle the gruelling course is crucial, while drivers have to have a body fit enough to cope with the bumps which accompany off-road racing.
“Up here, because it’s so rough the cars will go over it as fast as they possible can, but there’s still a lot of impact inside the car,” Coleman said.
“It’s not too bad — nowhere near as hard as riding a bike — but it still knocks you around a bit.”
For Coleman, who has raced since he was 18, placing second in the Finke was special “just because it’s such a big deal up here”.
“To the 80km mark on the track they say there are about 5500, 6000 campers. There are lots of people on the side of the track,” he said. “It’s the biggest sporting event in the Northern Territory.”