Two of the best known names in the world of motorcycle racing, Guy Martin and David Knight MBE, joined forces to race in a three hour quad bike race on a Polaris 1000cc machine at the UK's biggest and toughest off-road event - the Weston Beach Races in Weston-super-Mare. The pair also entered Sunday's solo race - Knight on a 350cc KTM and Guy Martin on a somewhat heftier Honda Africa Twin.
Ever more extreme off-road racing
In the 50s and 60s, the world of off-road motorcycle racing was fairly straightforward: there was "scrambling," (or motocross / MX), and trials riding....and that was about it. Both, of course, are still very much around but now there's also a plethora of extreme off-road events pushing riders' skills and endurance to the maximum.
Enduro riding, with its World and British Championships and US equivalent - the GNCC (Grand National Cross Country) now has so many more offshoots and variants. SuperEnduro and EnduroCross is raced in indoor stadia with tough obstacles such as boulders, logs, water pits and giant truck tyres to negotiate. There's now also a series of extreme "hard" enduro events around the world - in the form of the Red Bull Hard Enduro season. It consists of six rounds: Brasil (Minas Riders), Poland (Red Bull III Megawatt), Romania, (Red Bull Romaniacs), Austria (Erzbergrodeo), Turkey (Red Bull Sea to Sky) and South Africa (the Roof of Africa). Other extreme enduro events around the world include Last Man Standing (USA), The Tough One (UK) and Hell's Gate (Italy). In the world of "adrenaline / extreme sports" the "ante's" constantly being ramped up - so in enduro, the terrain becomes more extreme and the challenges ever greater pushing top riders to the limits of their off-road skills and physical endurance.
Beach Racing (Weston Beach)
The Weston Beach event is one of the biggest and most blatantly bonkers beach races of its kind in the world. From its inception in the early 80s, it has grown into a major world attraction with over 800 solo riders and a reported crowd of over 70,000 spectators. Each year in October, around one million tons of sand is bulldozed and spread around to create a 6 km track that's one of the most technically difficult sand courses in the world with a 2km straight and 36 dunes - the largest of which is 15m in height.
The event's open to professionals and amateurs from around the world and has attracted some of the world's leading off-road riders - exponents of motocross, enduro and trials including Belgian master Stefan Everts, British MX1 champion Graeme Irwin (brother of track / road racer Glen), Dave Thorpe, motocross / extreme stunt legend Robbie Maddison, enduro specialists David Knight and Johnny Walker and riders from other disciplines such as Scott Redding (Moto GP) and Chris Walker (BSB). Racing is divided over two days and features two, three and four wheeled events: solo motorcycles, sidecars and quads. The solo motorcycle and quad races are both three hour races with the combined quad / sidecar race on the Saturday afternoon and the blue riband solo adult race on the Sunday afternoon. Other classes include a youth 125cc and quad race, a kids 65cc race and big and small wheel 85cc race.
Truck fitter, motorcycle racer, multiple world record "speed setter" (including the Wall of Death, snow sled and soapbox) and TV maverick presenter, Guy Martin needs little introduction. With 16 Isle of Man TT podiums and multiple wins at Ulster GP, Scarborough Gold Cup (Olivers Mount) and Southern 100, Guy has competed at the very pinnacle of his sport alongside an elite band of world class road racers. In addition, Guy's unique personality, best selling books and TV work have propelled him to a position of being one of the best known faces - not only motorcycling, but in all motorised sport.
Having taken time out in 2016 to compete in the unsupported 2,750 mile Tour Divide MTB race from Banff, Canada to New Mexico, Guy returned to road racing this year riding for Honda Racing alongside team mate and 23 times TT winner, John McGuinness. After a challenging year with Honda which saw McGuinness seriously injured at the North West 200 as a result of a 'fly by wire' throttle malfunction, Guy announced that he was packing in road racing but that he would continue to do "oddball stuff!" Even if Guy has definitely retired from competitive road racing, it's likely that he's always going to be involved in building and riding fast and interesting motorcycles - like his Pikes Peak Martek Suzuki or riding a Honda RC166 six at Castle Combe. It's indelibly etched into his DNA.
Although Guy has some experience of sand racing - he's ridden at Mablethorpe's beach races in Lincolnshire, he hadn't undertaken anything as challenging as Weston Beach. Nevertheless, his endurance and all round physical fitness from competing in gruelling 24 hour solo MTB races like the Strathpuffer in Scotland and completing the Tour Divide's 2,750 miles in eighteen days meant that he would be more than up for the physical challenge presented by WBR.
David Knight MBE
Known as the "Iron Man" of enduro racing, Manxman David Knight MBE is a colossus in the world of off-road motorcycle racing. His achievements are both legendary and extensive and include four World Enduro Championship titles, (winning all 14 rounds in 2006!), two AMA GNCC Championships, the British Enduro Championship plus umpteen wins in extreme hard enduro events around the world including "Last Man Standing" in Texas and the "Tough One" in the UK. He's won races at the Indoor Enduro World Cup and is a six times winner at Weston Beach. Although an off-road specialist, he is a superb all round motorcycle racer - he won the Moto 1 event in the UK which pitched riders against each other across various disciplines including MX, enduro, road racing and trials riding. "Legend" is an all too ubiquitous word in modern day sport - but in David Knight's case, it's wholly appropriate.
Weston Beach Races 2017: October 14-15
In Saturday's quad race, Guy and David were leading the two man teams and at one point were lying fourth overall when the drive belt on their Polaris 1,000cc quad snapped. They managed to get the machine back to the pits (no mean feat in itself), got it sorted out and rejoined the race to record a finish.
According to David Knight, Guy did a "cracking job." According to Guy himself - quoted in MCN - "it was educational.' He felt that he needed a bit of practice and that he was basically "s**t ." It transpired that he had never ridden a quad until about an hour before the start of the race - and that was only for about two minutes!
In Sunday's solo races, David Knight was runner up behind overall solo winner, Todd Kellett.
Well done team Knighter / Martin - see you again next year?
Photo: Red Torpedo