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Finke legend Randall Gregory retains his record of five consecutive wins

More than a decade after its inception, the Finke Desert Race had become the premier event for dirtshifters across Australia. A clash between the proud Territorians and the carpetbaggers from the east. And the Honda CR500 – a lightweight, highly strung two-stroke – was the machine to beat with a 14-year winning streak, often taking the trifecta, if not the quinella.

Randall Gregory, who had moved to Alice Springs as a 10-year-old, was enthralled by it all, riding in MX and local enduros around the Alice. His Finke initiation was on a CR125 followed by two years on a CR250. By 1990 – now a partner in the local Honda dealership – he took on the top guns on a CR500, finishing on the podium behind Mark Winter and Alan Roe. After which he never looked back.

Much to the delight of the locals he took the win in 1991, again the following year before taking the hat-trick in 1993. Then in 1994 he gave the locals the trifecta leading home Roe and Stephen Greenfield – all aboard the dominant Honda CR500.

“By that time the CR500 was a proven winner, pretty much bulletproof,” Randall told AMCN. “The problem was, everyone had the same equipment as I did. And certainly Greeny (Stephen Greenfield, Randall’s business partner) had better riding skills than me.

“The secret was to build a better bike. And keep it secret. Working out of the same shop as Greeny, who was my fiercest competitor, it wasn’t easy. But I got it done and probably the biggest advantage was testing small changes to gearbox ratios, which took a lot of experimenting. The results were not something to be shared.”

But that helped give Randall his fifth straight victory in 1995. It was out pre-running the course the following April that Randall endoed his Honda XR600, leaving him a paraplegic.

“Of course we had body armour,” says Randall. “But this was a classic headplant, compressing my spine. I doubt whether any of the safety gear that’s available now would have helped. I was only doing 80-90km/h, but just came down on the wrong angle.

“Being in a wheelchair wasn’t a lot of help around the shop, so eventually I sold out my share in the Honda dealership. However I was still a young bloke so I moved to Darwin to study for a Diploma in Building Development and Drafting. This turned out to be a career move that lasted 15 years or so, but I still travelled down to Alice each year to watch the Finke and enjoy the celebrations.”

And to witness his former adversary Greenfield take four wins for Honda in what had become the largest and fastest desert race in the world.

It took some considerable time for Randall to configure and build a 4WD Camper Trailer suited to his abilities. Though, job done – and towing a quad for off-road adventuring – he and his partner Rebecca enjoyed their two years exploring Australia, a journey which provided many valuable insights into the requirements for successful 4WD adventuring.

Now back in Alice where he and Rebecca are expecting their first child, Randall is currently managing the local ARB outlet and overseeing the construction of a brand-new store for the off-road equipment supplier.

He’s observed first hand the extraordinary talents of Ben Grabham, followed by the extra-terrestrial performance of Toby Price, who has taken the overall record of six Finke victories.

But Randall still retains the record for consecutive wins; a record that may well have been higher had he not suffered that devastating misfortune so long ago.

Peter Whitaker