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Old 08-09-2013, 06:07 PM   #1
Wilmo OP
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Gassy Dash Desert Race Western Australia - Just Do It!

The Kickstarters Gascoyne Dash is on again!

I had a fantastic time there last year, and am lining up to do it again in 2013.

Discounted Entry for 2013 Event - Registration Open Now!

I notice that the organisers have the $100 discounted entry extended until 31st of August, and also if you are a past competitor you get an additional $100 off - so there’s plenty incentive to give this iconic race a go. You’ll get some great riding in and really feel part of a ‘proper’ race. Even if you just trail ride it like I did in 2012 - it’s awesome fun! Date for the event is 31st October to 3rd November 2013.

I must give credit to the photographers that provided images for this report, snapping away whilst I was out racing! Thanks to Andrew Kilburn at Kilaphotos and Anton Blume at .

So let the story begin…..

I’d never really considered myself a Desert Racer, but a chance meeting in Gascoyne Junction whilst covering the Australasian Safari recently changed all that. Paul Kelly, the Event Director of the Kickstarters Gascoyne Dash, is an enthusiastic advocate of motorsport and he clearly loves the Gascoyne Region in which he lives and works. It didn’t take too much convincing on his part for me to register for this year’s event as a bike competitor in which was to be my first race ever!

A nervous racer at scrutineering

I’d always thought of desert racing as way beyond my abilities and was at first unsure as to what exactly I had let myself in for! Every year the organisers create an excellent DVD of the event and I’d watched a few of these previously. The racing would obviously be fast and furious and the course as rough and rugged as they come. Thrown into the mix would be Buggies, 4wds, Quads and Bikes. I’d had visions of being mowed down by a Buggy or pelted with rocks as one flew past and then choked in its dust trail all whilst trying to hang onto a bucking bike on a rock strewn wooped-out track.

Call me over cautious but I reckon I just have a healthy respect for danger! It’s kept me free from injury or worse thus far in my riding career. I’m pleased to say my fears were unfounded as this event is one of the most professionally run on the calendar. The cars start before the bikes, ensuring all but the very fastest on two wheels remain behind them. The other challenges are still there to contend with (and then some) but these are what make this event unique. I don’t know of another event in Australia where you get to ride flat out in a dry riverbed for 125km!

Bike Line-up in the street

The Gassy Dash (as it is affectionately known) is the ultimate challenge across some of the harshest and remote country in Western Australia, situated between the seaside town of Carnarvon and the town of Gascoyne Junction further inland. This year 462 kilometres of forever changing natural desert terrain would feature, from rocky traverses to sandy riverbed, steep hills to fast station track, sand dunes to tough unforgiving moonscapes. Day 1 was a 201km circuit of variable terrain on Bidgemia Station just north of Gascoyne Junction and Day 2 was 261 kilometre dash down the Lyons and Gascoyne dry riverbeds into the coastal town of Carnarvon.

The Dash pits car against car and bike against bike and then the quickest of each against each other to determine who will be crowned the ‘King of the River’. 2012 would see huge prize money including a $2000 grin to the winner of every division which kept the racing at the pointy end of the field intense. The Dash attracts all kinds of competitors from the professional rally riders to weekend warriors like myself. There’s a myriad of different classes of vehicles but special mention has to go to the humble Suzuki Sierras which hotly contest the Suzuki Cup.

I canvassed a few riding buddies in Perth to see who was game to join me in the event and Jon stuck his hand up. He was even more apprehensive than I such is the reputation of this event. It didn’t help that we were aware of another mate of ours that had come a cropper in The Dash a couple of years ago. We calmed our nerves and justified our lack of physical preparation during the 9 hour drive from Perth to Carnarvon. Jon’s classic one liners like ‘training just wears out the body’ weren’t providing me with much comfort though!

We arrived at the Carnarvon Civic Centre and got stuck into the registration process and the scrutineering of our bikes. Once these tasks were completed we hung around the town centre, which was a hub of activity, for the competitors briefing. It’s an exciting time for Carnarvon when the Dash is in town with lots of the locals out enjoying the fanfare. Later that afternoon all the competitors fired their bikes and cars up and did a few laps of the city streets in the official parade much to the appreciation of the crowd. The local school kids loved high-fiving the riders as we rode past and I must admit it made me feel like a bit of a hero!

Jon at registration


My bike through – just needed to put a pad on the Steering Damper

Cars parked up outside the event HQ

Race Briefing

Street Parade

The next day saw us rock up to the Carnarvon Racecourse at 8am for the running of the Prologue event, where we would be seeded into our start order based on our time over a 20km loop cut into the racecourse outfield. It gave everyone a chance to get used to the course markings too, with special attention being paid to the ‘cautions’ by yours truly. I still had one moment going too hard over a bit of a step where I nearly ended up over the bars after the rear of the bike kicked skyward!

Me in the Prologue

I thought I had been riding pretty quickly but was disappointed when my time came back as 75th out of 86 entries! Jon fared a little better and was seeded 62nd. At least I wasn’t last but I knew I had to step up the pace a little to stay with the ‘young guns’ on their Motocross bikes. We would see later in the event that the Prologue results were no indication of finishing place. Jon made the observation that the guys at the finish with him and I were all ‘old blokes enjoying a beer with hardly a kid to be seen.’ Age and experience beats youth and exuberance again! A good indication that this event is one in which you have to pace yourself if you are to finish strongly.

After the Prologue we headed out to Gascoyne Junction to the Coonantha Race Complex. Here the organisers have created a great base for the race, with a huge shade cloth undercover area, tables and seats, amenities including toilets and showers and the essential catering and bar facilities. We camped in the scrub a short walking distance away but were hardly roughing it with great food and coldies on offer all weekend! After seeing the set up I wouldn’t hesitate to bring my wife and kids out next year as I know they’d be comfortable whilst I was out riding.

The racing complex before the arrival of the competitors and supporters

Competitors chilling out at their camps on the day before the race started

Our Camp for a couple of nights

I was now itching to get on the course and onto my new and hardly ridden KTM 500EXC that I had just picked up the week before from Dave at Causeway KTM in Perth. When I had confirmed my entry with Paul I knew I would need a new bike to take as my tired 2009 KTM may not have made the distance. The guys at Causeway KTM did a fantastic job getting my new 500 organised at short notice and did a great deal for me to boot! I’d had my eye on a 500 for a while and I reckon there is no better mount for the Dash than the mighty big bore KTM as it gives you the power to rip through the river sand and the suspension to tackle even the snottiest hill climb with ease - straight out of the box!

A new bike whoo hoo!

Ready to Race!

Racing kicked off on the Saturday with a 201 kilometre loop around Bidgemia Station and North East to the McDonald Ranges. The Cars were off first, 2 hours ahead of the bikes to provide some separation. As I lined up on the start line I suddenly transformed from a mild mannered trail rider to a Desert Racer as the red mist descended! I got a clean start and when I realised I was staying with the other three bikes in my group I rolled on the throttle and shot to the lead using all the power of the 500 to give them a taste of my dust!

The Road Kill kitchen – great food was served up all weekend

The Ambos were always there in case of emergency

Buggies roaring off the start line – fantastic!

I settled into a comfortable race pace and was soon on my own. I passed a couple of competitors stopped on the side of the track and caught and overtook a couple of others. As I came down towards the river section just before the finish a guy on a Yamaha blew past me but I was determined to not give up my place at this late stage! The 500 answered my call and we reeled him in just as we hit the sandy river bed. I was up on the pegs hammering down the river with the spectators lined up snapping action shots. The fact that I was in 62nd position didn’t matter, I still felt like a champion!

Spectators out on the course cheering everyone on

Day 2 of the racing was the big one - the ride down the mighty Lyons and Gascoyne Rivers back towards Carnarvon. After a lacklustre start and eating dust for the first 15kilometres I was soon in the river and coming to grips with it. The Lyons River is relatively narrow but soon opens out into the massive expanses of the Gascoyne which can be hundreds of metres across. I thought it would be sandy and high speed flats all the way but drop offs, rocky crab hole sections, high banks, trees, twists and turns are all there to catch you out and make for the most interesting riding I’ve done in recent memory. It was awesome!

Riders Briefing

Bike Racers pre-race

The Suzuki Sierras line up

This guy blew past me on the 990 (the one with the low suspension no less!) at about 150, and I thought I was motoring along nicely! Unbelievable to be able to ride a bike like this down the river bed at 100kmh plus!

Generally the course was well marked, but for some reason there was one 2metre drop off on an open section that didn’t have a caution on it. I remember flying up to it at about 100 clicks, seeing the drop and thinking I’ve got to land this one! As I came down the suspension on the KTM fully compressed sending my foot pegs deep into the sand. My feet were now airborne and I was up over the bars and rolling off the throttle. This sent the front wheel ploughing into the sand and me sailing through the air, clipping the bars with my groin as I fell. I stood up seeing stars and felt the intense pain only a bloke knows!

On course refuelling

I took a few seconds to get my breath and climbed back on the bike, determined to carry on as there was no way this get off was going to stop me finishing! I rode on at first gingerly but the pain soon eased up and I was back to my normal consistent pace. Soon after I was out of the river and at the last refuel point for the day at Rocky Pool. Here we had a compulsory 15minute rest stop and after downing some Powerade and a couple of muesli bars I was feeling re-energised.

The volunteers do a great job and are not to be missed all in their pink shirts

The run into the finish was a fast section of sandy fence lines through low scrub as we neared the coast and the finish at Carnarvon Racecourse. I kept the pace up as there were challengers snapping at my heels the whole way home. I felt a huge sense of achievement and as I jumped over the finish line sheer exhilaration! I had made it, and in a not too shabby 42nd position. As the organisers say ‘Winning is something, Finishing is EVERYTHING!’ My mate Jon was happy with his performance in 32nd position and 3rd Veteran which earned him a $300 prize, bonus!

This racer (me) with a wide grin – what a ride!

The general comment from regular Gascoyne Dash competitors was that this year was the roughest and toughest event ever. ‘We've raced in places today where not even a goat has been before’ shouted auto division victor Brad Cooper in a post-race interview. The spectators also loved this unique adventure as Tarnya one of the friends Jon and I made from the camp ground remarked ‘This was my first time at The Dash, a friend and I ran away from our husbands and families for a week. We had the best time ever!’

The ladies enjoyed the weekend as much as the blokes!

The after race entertainment was certainly eye opening – she had amazing flexibility!

As the dust settled and sun set on the Carnarvon Racecourse competitors, crews, officials, volunteers and race fans partied the night away with the world class entertainment provided by the Gascoyne Off Road Racing committee. Jon and I had enjoyed a great adventure are already planning our return next year!

Event organiser Paul Kelly, MC at the awards ceremony

My mate Jon gets third in the veterens and wins back half his entry fee!

Rod Fagotter wins the Dash outright and accepts his trophy
Rudall River Ride 2011 Kimberley Ride 2012
Australasian Safari 2012 Gascoyne Dash Racer 2012

Take risks and live an extraordinary life!

Wilmo screwed with this post 08-09-2013 at 10:01 PM
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Old 08-09-2013, 07:46 PM   #2
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Good one
looks like a cracker
being wrecked by bored and stroked posties....braaaaaaaaaap
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Old 08-09-2013, 11:06 PM   #3
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Great report Andy, and well done on the placing (or more importantly, the finishing!)

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Old 08-10-2013, 01:08 AM   #4
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Awesome stuff wilmo,have read/ seen videos of this event ,brilliant!!!
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Old 08-10-2013, 02:11 AM   #5
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Another top RR from Wilmo Love your work!
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Old 08-10-2013, 02:11 AM   #6
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Great report, fantastic photos,good on ya for having a go and more importantly finishing.
Thanks for posting Wilmo
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Old 08-10-2013, 06:36 AM   #7
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Great read Wilmo, and looks like an awesome weekend. Might see if I can get a leave pass to have a look this year

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Old 08-10-2013, 10:08 PM   #8
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good stuff wilmo!
good onya!
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Old 08-13-2013, 05:43 AM   #9
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Excellent photos !
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Old 08-13-2013, 02:18 PM   #10
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Respect! Great effort and write up too!

Safari is next?
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Old 08-14-2013, 06:37 AM   #11
Wilmo OP
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Safari?...yes tempting! The fact you could buy a new bike every year for the cost of entering it holds me back.
Rudall River Ride 2011 Kimberley Ride 2012
Australasian Safari 2012 Gascoyne Dash Racer 2012

Take risks and live an extraordinary life!
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Old 09-08-2013, 08:21 AM   #12
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Nice one Andrew! Great write up and nicely done on the race position mate! Something I would like to have a crack at myself
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Old 03-20-2014, 06:05 AM   #13
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Nice one. A good read.

Actually I found it qute inspiring. There are a lot of good events of this type in WA.

The Gascoyne and Yligarn are quite tempting. Might look at options to come over from QLD to check these out.

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