‘Mission: Un-Finkeable’: There & back with one tank of fuel on a DesertX?

8 months ago | Words: Matt Holmes | Photos: Ducati Australia

Ducati Australia just dropped us details of their latest dusty project.

Dubbed ‘Mission: Un-Finkeable’ the video project saw Ducati Product Specialist and DRE Adventure Academy Chief Instructor, Nick Selleck, haul across the harsh terrain between Alice Springs and the community of Finke, and back, in just one day. What’s more, Selleck’s bike for the ride: a basically stock Ducati DesertX, which completed the ride without topping up at the fuel pump. 

As one of the world’s most iconic desert races and widely regarded as the world’s fastest, the Tatts Finke Desert Race is revered and feared in equal measure; thanks to its rep for pushing athletes and their machines to breaking point every year. 

While the official event doesn’t currently offer a class for bigger bikes other than a ‘450cc & Above 4-Stroke’ class, Ducati are obviously hankering for a big twin or ADV category for bikes, especially with Nick confessing to having the Finke event on his bucket list forever. And just like that, a plan was hatched and ‘Mission: Un-Finkeable’ was born.

“It’s quite rare to be able to challenge both man and machine in this way, and the support and enthusiasm the project has received has been incredible.” – Nick Selleck

The Mission

Focusing on pushing the limits of both bike and rider, it was decided that Nick would take a standard Ducati DesertX with a factory fitted 8-litre auxiliary tank to tackle Finke, with the ride set for two weeks after the race weekend. This would mean the track would be at its roughest, but remain relatively clear from pre-run traffic, giving Nick and the DesertX the chance to complete the ride as safely and efficiently as possible, while still racing against precious daylight hours: in short supply during winter.

All told, Nick would spend three full days and over 1000km on the track riding the DesertX, which included track reconnaissance as well as capturing photography and videography to document the journey. With only a small medical, logistics and photography team in-tow, Nick left his one-day, there-and-back run for the third day, having already completed close to 800km in the DesertX’s saddle on the track.

The Ride

Running around 230km each way, the ride follows in the historic footprints of the Finke Desert Race track between Alice Springs and Finke. As the officials put it, the Tatts Finke Desert Race is an off-road, multi-terrain two-day race for bikes, cars and buggies through desert country from Alice Springs to the small Aputula (Finke) community. The race is held each year on the Queen’s/King’s Birthday long weekend in June. “Finke”, as it is commonly known, is one of the biggest annual sporting events in the Northern Territory and has the reputation of being one of the most difficult off-road courses, in one of the most remote places, in the world.

The Bike

Joining Nick on his epic ride, Ducati’s DesertX is built to tackle the world’s toughest terrains. As the first modern Ducati with a 21-inch front wheel and an 18-inch rear, the DesertX offers long travel suspension and a new frame designed specifically for off-roading. Powered by a lighter, evolved version of the well-established 937cc Testastretta engine, the DesertX packs a one-two punch of blistering performance (110hp/92Nm) and excellent fuel efficiency, making the most of its six unique driving modes – two of which have been specifically programmed for off-road use. The additional 8-litre auxiliary fuel tank, a genuine factory option, maximises the DesertX’s endurance capabilities with up to a 40% range increase. Aside from a small number of Nick’s hand-picked genuine Ducati Accessories, the bike tackled Finke in straight out of the showroom spec, with its standard factory suspension set-up. Rubber-wise, Nick went  for the Pirelli Rally Scorpion. Up front was a 90/90-21 tube type, and on the back a Pirelli Rally 150/70-18 tubeless. 

“While none of us from Ducati Australia or our colleagues in Italy had any doubt the DesertX could tackle Finke, the parameters we added to the challenge – riding there and back and with only the fuel the bike can carry – certainly had us all curious to see if man and machine could go the distance. The extra challenge of riding the track just after hundreds of racers have torn it to shreds ensured that Nick and the DesertX were not afforded the smoothest of rides ” 

– Alana Baratto, Ducati ANZ Marketing Genius

The Experience

Upon crossing the invisible Finke Desert Race finish line (with all race signage having already been removed and awaiting next year’s race) not long before dark, with fuel still left in the DesertX’s tank and having now ticked off a longstanding item on his bucket list, Nick was able to reflect on his experience among the desert dunes.

“This was one of those days that you couldn’t even dream of as a kid – 460km of whooped out red sandy race track stretching out in front of you, a team of great mates right alongside you that are each masters of their craft, an amazing Italian motorcycle underneath you that sounds like heaven on wheels, and a helicopter chasing along behind!”

– Nick Selleck

Keen for more? Don’t sweat, as its all been documented with Ducati Australia releasing the trailer to the Mission: Un-Finkeable documentary shortly, followed by the full documentary in August. The film will provide a glimpse in to Nick’s journey with the DesertX, and showcasing the beauty and ferocity of the region and the iconic desert race.

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