A PAIR of locals who "feel the need for speed" made their respective marks at the 2019 Tatts Finke Desert Race.
Eric Hume navigated for driver Josh Howells in a Jimco Aussie Special Nissan 3500cc to finish second in the Kings of the Desert category, while Mark Blake, riding a KTM 500 EXC, placed 14th in his class - and 126th overall - in the bike section from a field of 650.
The off-road duo completed the gruelling 452km round trip in a time of three hours, 51 minutes and 51 seconds - less than 10 minutes behind winners Jack Rhodes and David Pullino.
The MRS Services Group employee admitted his result was the "most unreal feeling".
"It was totally unexpected to finish on the podium," Hume said.
"Josh and I started the second leg from Finke to Alice Springs in fourth place and, because of the conditions, we didn't know we had passed anyone so to hear we moved into second was amazing.
"We were a bit fortunate as two of the cars in front of us broke down.
"The result was very much deserved though.
"It was a big effort from the whole team to get the car ready, not just myself and Josh."
Hume has been navigating for the past decade but this marked his first Finke Desert Race after he partnered up with Howells, who'd competed on two previous occasions, at the start of the year.
They then bettered 153 other participants at the event, which is recognised as Australia's best desert race.
Hume, who grew up in Kempsey before moving to the Hunter for work two years ago, said the track posed many threats to competitors.
"The conditions are challenging," he explained.
"It's very dusty, which makes it very difficult to overtake, and sometimes it becomes impossible to see and you have to stop.
"The logistics make it difficult, too," the 28-year-old added.
"Once you're about 10km out of Alice Springs you lose reception so it's hard to get help if you need it."
Meanwhile, Blake produced a phenomenal effort to even get on the track.
He came off his bike during practice and suffered an injury to his right wrist.
But, the Denman rider still lined up for the Prologue and began day one on grid 27.
He ended up registering six hours, 19 minutes and 21 seconds.
- Callum McGregor and Rod Thompson