Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Motorcycle Sand Racing in Mablethorpe

North Sea Facing

The calendar had just nudged its way into December, and the temperature display in the car read minus two degrees when I set out; ideal for a trip to the seaside. The destination? Mablethorpe.

They were not hard to find; camped on the beach below the sea wall, with a dazzling winter sun shining on this colourful motorcycle tribe, anticipating a day's sport.

North of Skeggie

Mablethorpe is in Lincolnshire, north of Skegness and just below Cleethorpes. It is one of those small, almost forgotten, seaside towns with an assortment of amusement arcades and a desultory collection of food and drink cafes and huts serving questionable fare and tepid tea and coffee – I know, I tried several places in the quest to get a hot one.

The Mablethorpe Sand Racing Club

But in common with many places along this coast, there is a splendid wide firm sandy beach, washed by the North Sea tides. Ideal for a spot of sand racing, and the Mablethorpe Sand Racing Club, formed in 1970, holds a fortnightly winter championship series between October and March when summer beach frolics are a memory.

For years many of the wins were mopped up by Neil Tuxworth on a converted two fifty Honda. He’s perhaps better known as a champion road racer in his younger days, and in recent years as the successful head of Honda race teams in the UK. He’s now retired from the sand scene, but is still involved as Chairman of the club.

Get down and dirty

This is real get down and dirty, come and enjoy yourself motorcycle sport. The club keeps the rules and classes simple and straightforward: Moto Cross, Grass Track/Speedway, Quads, Sidecars, and Juniors. But the most interesting class is the one for Road Machines, where riders can indulge in imaginative, innovative and inventive mechanical building and bodgery as long as they keep the original type of tank, frame and suspension. Engines can be overbored up to 1mm, and any ignition unit or carburettor can be fitted.

I spotted a couple of big Triumph Twins, several Honda V Twins, and water cooled LC Yamahas. The flat tracker style is the way to go with a swinging footrest on the right to allow the bracing of the right leg with the left free to graze the sand speedway style if you’re skilled or brave enough to get the bike sliding.

The course is simple too. An oval marked out with the ubiquitous cones as soon as the tide retreats far enough to allow racing to begin. Competitors are called together for a riders meeting before the practice and racing begins. A couple of burly ‘officials’ remind the assembly about the safety rules and flags, and emphasise the no wheelying clause.

Getting ready to roll

After this engines can be warmed through for ten minutes prior to a three lap practice session for each class. It’s now mid morning, and the temperature has struggled up to three or four degrees. But the sun, in a seamless azure sky, highlighting a forest of wind turbines on the horizon, is providing just enough warmth to keep a couple of hundred spectators in their places, strung out along the promenade overlooking the course. It’s free event and so attracts a mix of motorcycle enthusiasts, dog walkers taking a curious look, local people out for a Sunday stretch, and a few very tough riders who have arrived on their road bikes…respect.

Everyone gets three laps of practice, and then it’s on with the races with the aim of each class getting to complete five races of four laps duration, before the North Sea reclaims the beach. The organisation is well practised, and while there are a few tumbles, this is pretty ‘safe’ racing.

Diggin' up some sand

The experienced riders are easy to spot. They have developed a way of sliding their bikes, and this technique is by far the quickest way of negotiating the sandy oval. But the main impression you come away with from a Sunday morning's racing at Mablethorpe is that everyone enjoys the event, which is surely the essence of motorcycle sport?

Points can be accumulated towards the overall championship at the fortnightly meetings between mid-October and mid-March. Dates are on the website along with information about the meetings, dates, a gallery of pictures, and a for sale section if you fancy purchasing a machine and diggin’ up some sand


John Newman
for Wemoto News

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