2017 and 2018 were not kind to Beau Ralston (Schwartz Excavation Husqvarna). With an obliterated knee which required a reconstruction, ACL replacement, MCL and hamstring reattachment, alongside a damaged femur and fibia, most people would have bowed out from competition, but that’s not Ralston. 2019 marks his full season return to the Yamaha Australian Off-Road Championship (AORC) where he currently sits in second place in the E3 class, as well as a highly anticipated return to the 2019 Tatts Finke Desert Race.
The Tatts Finke Desert Race is an off-road, multi-terrain, two-day race through the desert country from Alice Springs to Finke. It is one of the biggest sporting events in the Northern Territory and has attained a reputation for being the toughest off-road courses in one of the most remote places on earth.
Originating in Motocross (MX), Ralston has added Off-Road and Desert racing to his repertoire, which already includes being a member of the victorious 2015 Australian World Trophy Team at the FIM International Six Days’ Enduro (ISDE). As he gears up for next weekend’s 2019 Tatts Finke Desert Race, #6 sat down with us to give an insight into his jampacked schedule, his love of cross discipline training and his plans moving forward.
In 2016 you finished Finke with 5th Outright and 2nd in your class. 2017 and 2018 then dealt you with a pretty tough pack of cards. Tell us more on how you’re feeling heading into the 2019 edition of Finke? What is it about Finke that calls out to you?
I’m feeling pretty good and 100% recovered from my previous injuries. I’m probably in the best shape of my life, on a new bike that I’m happy with, so I’m in the best position in the lead up to Finke next week.
It actually took me a while to love Finke. Originally, I was a bit scared or uncomfortable racing in Finke, mainly because you reach really high speeds, but now I Iove the speed and everything about Finke! Cross Country events likes AORC’s Broken Hill round definitely help you prepare for these kinds of events, because you can work on speed and managing the terrain.
I’m definitely looking toward competing in more desert style races, with an end goal of potentially competing in the Dakar Rally. These are goals I’ve had for a long time and I believe there is still a while before I action these kinds of goals. I’ve still got some more time in AORC before anything else happens, and the field is so deep and competitive, which is another drive to keep on working.
Walk us through the plan and logistics that go into racing at Finke. I imagine that the distance travelled, time off work and training must dominate your days.
I’m really liking working with the Schwartz Excavation Husqvarna Team. They send your bike up there, set up a workshop too, and our team then flies up to Finke to prepare. So I’m one of the very few lucky ones who doesn’t drive up to Finke.
I have three huge priorities in my life with racing, work and my family (including my six-year-old daughter). I love racing and my family, so it’s not about managing priorities because there is no discussion of compromising on one for the other.
In 2018 you could almost taste the end goal for Finke, but due to a broken leg you had to make a late withdrawal. Did that spanner impact your future goals in motorcycling? How did that injury effect your focus and motivation?
After my injury just before Finke last year, the impact wasn’t as major as when I really ruined my knee the year prior. My broken leg was really a bump in the road compared to my knee, which really messed with my head. After the original surgery for my knee, the first few weeks were tough because you can’t do anything as you wander around on crutches, but as time passes you rehabilitate and look out for that adrenaline rush again.
Apart from that impact, my goals remain the same as always, with AORC and then hopefully Dakar.
Before the injuries you sustained in 2017 and 2018, you were also a feature of the 2016 Hattah Desert Race, finishing third Outright and 1st in your class. Is Hattah in your sights for 2019?
I am actually entered to compete in Hattah this year!
I’m really looking forward to that race, because it’s probably my favourite races each year! It’s so similar to what I used to do – which was MX – but a lot bigger and faster. It’s got a mix of Finke on a MX track, which I love.
I like to call Hattah “Motocross on steroids”.
2019 marks your highly anticipated return for a full season of AORC. Tell us about your experience so far in Toowoomba and Dungog. How are you managing your recovery from your impressive list of injuries sustained in 2017 and 2018?
The first rounds of AORC this year were good. Toowoomba was a really interesting round to return to racing, because of the super gnarly conditions which got super technical and dusty over the two days. But without a doubt, it was so much fun! Obviously, I want to keep getting better and hopefully my results continue to improve as the years goes on.
The break we’re on right now has been beneficial because I can see already that I’ve made improvements.
With my injuries, the main thing is maintenance and fitness. If I don’t keep a really close eye on maintaining my body, I start feel the aches in my back and knee. So it’s a really big thing to maintain my body through physio.
Alongside your preparation for Finke and work at AORC, we understand that you still compete competitively in MX. What’s the drive behind continuing cross-discipline training? Do you find the cross-discipline training assists in developing and strengthening your current racing skills and style?
I believe cross discipline training definitely helps develop all skills. It’s funny actually, I was noticing recently how many Off-Road riders train in MX, but there is this disparity where MX riders don’t really train in Off-Road.
MX has given me speed and intensity when coming into Off-Road. Off-Road contrastingly teaches you technique and focus, which is actually something I originally struggled with and continue to work on, even now. One of the things I was taught was to read books as a method of focus and calm, and although I didn’t listen to the advice when I was younger, I’m definitely listening to it now.
AORC returns for Rounds 5 & 6 in Kyogle, NSW for back-to-back Sprints. In the meantime, stay updated with all the happenings of the 2019 Yamaha Australian Off-Road Championship by visiting the AORC Website at aorc.org.au, or by following the Yamaha AORC on Twitter and Facebook as well as @aorc on Instagram.
Don’t forget to download the Official AORC app via Team App. It’s as easy as downloading Team App and searching ‘AORC’!
Images courtesy of John Pearson Media