Great Racing at the ACU International SandAce British Championships 2017

Monday June 26, 2017 at 4:13pm
Great Racing at the ACU International SandAce British Championships 2017
A fine weekend of unique racing was once again experienced by the visitors to Guernsey on 24th June, as several of the top names in Grasstrack made their way to the crown dependency. Several races of both solos and sidecars produced some tremendous racing, all done at mind-boggling speeds due to the size of the track available on the day.

SandAce supremo Mike Clarke had assessed the layout of the beach (due to the nature of the unique location, every year the conditions are slightly different) and decided to run the circuit much larger than usual, with an approximate length of 792 metres for the solos and 692 metres for the sidecars producing some very fast competition.

The sidecar class was dominated by the defending champions. Father and Son duo Rod and Billy Winterburn won all of their races, the final and even the Bahnrekord in tremendous style. Behind them, the battles ensued as local crew Clint Blondell and Kevin Bennett began to put together some excellent results. They won their first race, much to the pleasure of the Guernsey crowd. Former SandAce champions Rob Wilson and Terry Saunters had to borrow the spare machine of Blondell to compete, and duly rode it to 3 heat wins.

In the final, it was all about the Winterburns. The Yorkshire pairing made an excellent start and had a considerable lead by the end of lap 1. In turn, Wilson/Saunters held a comfortable second, whilst regular visitors to the Bailiwick Will Offen and Sam Black rode consistently all day to come home 3rd in the final. For Blondell/Bennett, it was not to be there year. After taking a heavy pile of wet sand in the face in the first bend, Blondell’s goggle lense disintrigated, leaving him blinded. He did manage to finish 5th, but he’s certainly shown his home fans that he is well on the pace with the mainlanders now.

Many predicted a similar defence of the title for Zach Wajtknecht. The youngster has been in fantastic form on both speedway and Grasstrack recently. True to form, ‘Waj’ was the quickest competitor in practice, and went on to win the solo Bahnrekord by a considerable margin. From there though things didn’t go to plan. Popular Yorkshireman Paul Cooper made good use of his wealth of experience to trap in front of Wajtknecht in the opening race and beat him convincingly, laying a marker down early in the event. Sadly, there was to be no end of day showdown as from here, the champion had several machine problems. He dropped two rides whilst placed strongly, whilst Cooper went on to win two straight races in excellent fashion. The two did clash again in their final ride and, as expected, put on the race of the day with the pair swapping the lead several times, all at great speed. Just as it looked at though Wajtknecht would have the final word, Coops dropped underneath the young rider, and overtook him at the finish line. A great race from two of the sport’s best.

In the final, it was all about Cooper. He led from start to finish, with another of the day’s stand-out performers Andrew Whitaker slotting into 2nd. However, tragedy struck Whitaker on the 2nd lap as he entered what is affectionately known in Guernsey as ‘the wet bend’. He pulled off the circuit leaving Cheshire’s Daniel Winterton to claim 2nd on borrowed machinery. Cornwall’s Josh Dingle completed the top 3 after having to borrow a machine himself.

Former retiree Rob Fortune had an eventful weekend. When he left home on Friday to make his way to the event, he was a former rider supporting young racer Thomas Jorgensen. After the event, he had returned to the sport and had finished 4th. Fortune’s delight in his change of fortune was clear to see.

Once again, the Guernsey Motorcycle and Light Car Club have managed to pull off an excellent meeting. There was a healthy crowd in attendance all along the sea wall and even when the drizzle came in, plenty stayed until the end to see the riders. Once again, the SandAce proves its ‘must-see’ status in 2017.

Report by Gareth Bemister

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