It’s been a long time since Medowie local John Towers spent his weekends revving beach buggies in the Stockton sand dunes as a kid.
In a few days time the 49-year-old racing enthusiast will compete in his sixth annual Finke Desert Race in Alice Springs.
After finishing 49th overall in 2019 and missing out in 2020 when it was cancelled due to COVID-19, Towers is hoping to improve his ranking in Australia’s most gruelling off-road race.
“Just to finish it is a great result, really,” he said.
“It’s the hardest race in the world, and the most challenging. But I guess that’s why it appeals to me.”
The Tatts Finke Desert Race is an off-road, multi-terrain two-day race for bikes, cars, buggies and quads travelling through desert country from Alice Springs to the small Aputula (Finke) community.
The race is held each year on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend in June.
“Finke” as it is affectionately known, is one of the biggest annual sporting events in the Northern Territory.
Named after the Finke River, believed to be the oldest river in the world, it has the reputation of being one of the most difficult off-road courses in one of the most remote places in the world.
This year Towers says he’d like to finish “right up the pointy end” of the 460 kilometre race.
“This year rain is possible,” he said.
“That’ll change things. With any luck it’ll settle the dust down.”
Travelling at speeds of up to 200km/hr for almost two hours one way is what keeps drawing him to compete each year, Towers says.
“Then you sleep out in the desert and do the whole thing again the next morning.
“You’re at the mercy of the track.
“There are some very deep bumps and if you hit one flat out you’re in trouble.
“But it’s an obsession now. I’m hooked on it.”
When he’s driving his pro-class buggy, together with a navigator and four ‘pit crew’, Towers says his focus remains impenetrable.
“There’s not much going on in there,” he said.
“I’m too busy concentrating, trying to remember the track. You could end up up a tree if you’re not careful.
“Even the bumps, hit at that speed, could throw you off track.”
Towers has been racing cars since 1991.
A metal fabricator by trade, his car is purpose-built, with all new parts.
“You’ve got to be fresh going into the race and so does your car.
“We’re feeling pretty confident
This is the first year Tower’s buggy has attracted a sponsor, with Yokohama Tyres proudly displaying their brand on its shell.