Nathan Watson is the First UK Winner of the Iconic Le Touquet Beach Race
Nathan Watson not only became the first British rider to win the legendary Le Touquet beach race in great style he also became French sand racing series champion, despite missing a round.
However, the excitement started for the UK fans a day earlier when a hard-charging Sheldon Seal finished in a healthy second place in the Quaduro quad race.
A reported 500,000 turned up to watch the main race on Sunday as clear blue skies and bright sunshine replaced the powerful cold winds of Saturday. The whole track was lined with people, and on the seawall, they were five or six deep with lots bringing their step ladders to get a good view. The massive infield spectator area was full to capacity with very little room to walk about and with many struggling to see any of the action.
Sunday’s three-hour big race started at two in the afternoon when 1,187 riders, seeded into two groups set off down the five-mile start straight to the first turn at Stella beach. A cloud of sand and seawater spray followed the riders and signalled to the spectators at turn one that the race was on. First into view was Camille Chapeliere and Adrian Van Beveren. Both flat out and side by side at speeds of around 100 mph just before breaking hard for the first turn, but Van Beveren braked too late and let Chapeliere through to take the tight inside line to claim the holeshot and the price that went with it.
With a nice freshly levelled track it took no time at all for the leading riders to complete the first lap with Chapeliere leading over the line, from Axel van De Sande followed by series leader Milko Potisek, Van Beveren, Daymond Martens, Jeffrey Dewulf, Richard Fura, Victor Brossier, Adrian Lamour and with Alexis Collignon completing the top ten. As for Watson, he was back in sixteenth place but was well on the pace.
As the leaders came along the seafront for the second time, the track was blocked in several places by the slower riders tripping over each other and holding the leaders which reshuffled the pack. For the next couple of laps, Chapeliere and Jeremy Van Horebeek fought over the lead which changed for or five times every lap with Chapeliere’s KTM seaming to have a speed advantage over Van Horebeek’s Honda down the long straight
By the end of lap three, Chapeliere was still in the lead, but now Potisek was in his wheel tracks and pushing for the lead as the Marten’s of Daymond and Yentel (no relation) fought over third. Petar Petrov was in fifth while Van Beveren had just been passed again by Van Horebeek who was making up ground again after a big fall. Watson moved into eighth at the cost of Weston winner Todd Kellett with Collignon still in tenth place.
As the race reached its halfway point, and as most of the top riders had made a pitstop for re-fuelling and a goggle change, Van Horebeek was back in the lead, but Chapeliere was not giving up on the lead as the pair swopped position again and again. Potisek was in third some twenty-two seconds behind the leading duo as, the Martens were still battling over fourth, but Watson was closing in fast. , and they had Petrov just ten seconds behind them.
The only real bit of controversy happened with an hour and a quarter to go. The organisers deemed the Chapeliere had cut the course when it had become blocked and gave him a minute stop and go paneity, though it must be said that loads of other riders did the same at the time. However, Chapeliere was the only one penalised which in effect robbed him as the chance of the win.
Van Horebeek was on his own in the lead and sighing his way through the slower riders. Potisek was in second almost a minute down, but he now had Watson closing in on him fast making look like a grandstand finish.
With an hour to go Van Horebeek had his second big crash when he collided with a back maker sending him cartwheeling down the track. It took him some time to get himself together and chase back after Potisek and Watson.
It all happened in the last three laps as Chapeliere’s KTM screamed enough and stopped. Van Horebeek’s Honda also stopped out on the track with Kellett’s Yamaha, while he was in sixth, doing the same a lap later with a clutch problem. Potisek did the last of the compulsorily two pit-stops with two to go while Watson just drove through the pits a lap later and retained his race lead. Potisek then had his engine blow on his last trip down the straight.
At the end of the gruelling three-hour race, Watson crossed the finish line just under five minutes clear of second place man Daymond Martens with Richard Fura third, twelve minutes behind Watson. As Potisek failed to score any points, Watson became the French Sand Race champion.
Stephan Simpson was a strong twelfth for second UK rider home while Rob Holyoake had a collision with a backmarker that pulled his chain off but still managed to finish thirty second.
Matt Moffat seized his two-stroke on lap two, while Brad Thornhill had his bike stop down the start straight.
“I can not believe it. I have done it” said an emotional Watson second after winning the biggest race in the world, “There was a lot of traffic, and the track was very fast, and at one point I didn’t think I could win. But when it started to get bumpy, I found that I could pick the other riders off. I just kept pushing till the end. I was having a good fight with Milko (Potisek), but we were on a different pit stop strategy, so I didn’t know where he was, so I had to just keep pushing on the final lap. With him, DNFing means I have won the championship as well, and that’s just amazing. I don’t think I am crazy enough on the first couple of laps. Perhaps to cautious. You have to hit blind jump flat out and just go for it. But I know I am strong and with my long legs, I just waited for it to get bumpy and then put that hammer down. It seemed to work.”
Enduropale results (Top thirty)
1 Nathan Watson (KTM) – 15 laps
2 Daymond Martens (Yamaha)
3 Richard Fura (Honda)
4 Adrian Van Beveren (Yamaha)
5 Stephane Watel (Honda)
6 Petar Petrov (KTM)
7 Maxime Sot (Yamaha)
8 Victor Brossier (Yamaha)
9 Timothee Florin (Kawasaki) – 14 laps
10 Jeremy Hauquier (KTM)
11 Marshall Meplon (Yamaha)
12 Stephan Simpson (KTM) – 13 laps
13 Jeremy Bonneau (KTM)
14 Florent Becker (Husqvarna)
15 Sabry Gembala (Yamaha)
16 Toni Mulec (KTM)
17 Eddy Mollon (KTM)
18 Andy Bethys (Honda)
19 Tim Louis (Kawasaki)
20 David Abgrall (KTM)
21 Mickael Levreau (Yamaha)
22 Adrian Lamour (Yamaha)
23 Kilian Bronco (KTM)
24 Pierre Morel (Yamaha)
25 Maxime Jeanne (KTM)
26 Benjamin Boidras (KTM)
27 Julian Campet (KTM)
28 Banjamin Cazaunau (Kawasaki)
29 Adrian Jorry (Yamaha)
30 Vincent Thiollier (Yamaha)
32 Rob Holyoake (Husqvarna) – 12 laps