Commencing a Finke Desert Race career back in 2016, her maiden voyage earned her the title of the youngest female to compete in and complete the 460-kilometre, grueling desert race. Returning each year thereafter, she’s consistently featured in the top three of her class, aside from the race-ending broken collarbone in 2018. At this year’s edition of the Finke Desert Race, she received the much deserved ‘Kay Wharton Fastest Female Award’, alongside a third-place finish in her class and a 57th fastest total time overall.
With 2019 marking her 20th birthday, Danielle Foot (Road & River Motorcycles, Sherco Australia) has quickly and quietly made a substantial name for herself in the Off-Road community. A formidable force at the Finke, Foot came third overall in her first full Yamaha Australian Off-Road Championship (AORC) season last year, behind the likes of household names Jessica Gardiner (Yamaha MX Store Ballards Off-Road Team) and Emelie Karlsson (Yamaha).
A convert from Motocross (MX), the Moriac local has used her pedigree of speed and agility to her advantage, proven in her eye-watering climb up the leader board both in the Finke and at AORC. Heading home after the red sands of the Northern Territory, Foot gave us an insight into her experiences in desert racing, and what it takes to be a podium contender in one of Australia’s most significant Off-Road events.
Every time you enter and compete in the Finke Desert Race, you are always named as a major podium contender for your class. Tell us about your experiences over the past three years. Does anything change as you clock up more experience?
I started back in 2016, where I was the youngest female to compete and complete Finke, and just missed out on the podium with a fourth-place finish. Next year, 2017, I came second. This position was hindered due to suspension issues and prevented from pushing as hard as I could. Last year I broke my collarbone about 50 kilometres into the race, and of course couldn’t finish the race.
This year I changed my training altogether. I am working with a Personal Trainer, to prepare purely just for Finke and Hattah. I believe that my attitude this year is very different, especially coming off last year’s injury. I came into Finke a bit nervous and cautious, but we planned to come up North a week prior to the event, to calm the nerves and familiarise myself with the landscape.
I have found that I didn’t get the best start through the Prologue this year, which originally made me angry, but then I kept reminding myself that I don’t need to blast it for the first 60 kilometres. Instead, I just need to maintain momentum and keep moving along!
Tell us more about what it is that calls out to you when it comes to Finke. Does this particular style of racing suit you best, being from an MX background?
It’s weird because the Prologue track is so similar to a MX track, but I suck at the Prologue track! I’ve been trying to wrap my head around why I’m not doing well with the Prologue track, and I think the main reason is that coming from a MX background you want to go flat out from the gate, but you forget that you have hundreds of kilometres to go before the finish line. So, the training for Finke is a bit different to MX because you need to learn how to pace yourself.
I don’t know what it is about Finke that calls out to me. I heard people call it the “Finke Fever”. I didn’t expect myself to be here, simply because this race is so tough. But the atmosphere is really special, and you get to have fun with the other riders whilst getting pushed along by the spectators who dress up or sometimes even dress down…
Do you find the Broken Hill round of AORC helps carry on the momentum from Finke, especially considering the similar racing style and abundance of red dirt?
Definitely! I loved Broken Hill back in 2018. It was much more my forte, with deep sand, less corners and wide opens spaces. Having this after Finke and Hattah also means you don’t need to make as many adjustments to the bike. Last year’s Broken Hill round didn’t see me do so well, but considering it was my first full AORC season, it was really great finishing third in the Women’s class!
Being from Victoria, how challenging is it to navigate a completely different landscape like that of Finke? What do you do to prepare for events such as this, where the landscape is so different to what you’re used to back home?
I’m really lucky to have my parents, who put in so much to help me ride. They take me everywhere, and recognise my passion in the sport, so they put in so much to help me get where I want to go!
The first year in 2016 we did a lot more pre-racing to prepare, which we didn’t really follow through on in 2017 and 2018. For this year’s race, we followed the 2016 formula and went up a month early to get used to the bike and get my head around the new track.
Having this three-month break was super important to racking up these really strong results at Finke!
Header image courtesy of John Pearson Media