The ‘Condor Ferries’ International SandAce
is due to take place on Saturday 24th
June, once again holding ACU British Championship status for the sixth consecutive year. Britain and Europe’s best oval racers are due to clash on Guernsey’s Vazon Bay in what has fast become a ‘must-see’ occasion for any Track Racing fan, with both solos and sidecars in action.
The SandAce has been a great success of the modern track racing era, the uniqueness of the occasion surely being a sure-fire attraction for spectators and riders alike. The circuit itself ranges between 600-800 metres, with separate corners for sidecars and solos to avoid track degradation. The speeds are something to behold, with 1000cc sidecars being clocked very close to 100mph at the end of the straights. Seeing this on a venue which would usually host sunbathing and sandcastle building is a sight that messes with the senses!
The Guernsey Motorcycle and Car Club do a tremendous job in making the whole occasion feel special. The weekend’s entertainment begins on Friday evening, with a welcome reception for riders and officials, often attended by members of the local parliament and this year the riders will be welcomed to the island by HM Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey, Vice-Admiral Sir Ian Corder
, KBE, CB. The following day is race day. Upon arrival, the circuit is under water. As the tide goes out, onlookers are treated with another site to behold; organisers take to the beach and mark out the circuit, often with the relenting sea still lapping at their heels, whilst race vans make their way hastily onto the beach, ready to set up for a day’s racing. Then the racing begins.
Over the years, racing has been fantastic at Vazon, with some of the top names in the game taking to the beach. Former competitors include: Appleton, McDonald, Godden, Kinchen, Shanes and Warwick. This year’s line-up looks similarly strong, with reigning SandAce champion and former World Youth Champion Zach Wajtknecht looking to defend his title. As expected from an event of this magnitude, he will be up against stiff competition. Danish speedway ace Thomas Jorgensen comes to the beach after a lengthy lay off from the Grasstrack scene. The Workington Comets racer had a meeting to forget on his previous visit to the Channel Islands. This time around, he’ll want to take the title and be the first non-Brit to do so.
Cornish former Team GB Speedway World Cup representative Ben Barker makes his debut at Vazon. The former British Junior and Senior Youth Grasstrack champion has only ever dabbled on the grass since turning professional at 16, yet every appearance he has made on the grass, he has been at the sharp end. It will be interesting to see how Barker performs on the beach, having been at the top of the speedway sport for many years.
A popular returnee to Guernsey for 2017 will be Paul Cooper. The Yorkshire star was runner up to Wajtknecht in last year’s competition and comes with plenty of experience of racing at the highest level of the sport. ‘Coops’ has made a solid start to 2017 and will look to build on his 2nd
place last year.
The solo line up is packed full of talent from both Grasstrack and Speedway, all ready to do battle on the beach. There’s added interest too from several local riders with lots of sand racing experience. For them, this is the big meeting of the year and a chance for them to fend off the ‘foreign’ invaders on their beaches. Several sand race meetings take place throughout the year at Vazon, so lots of the locals have had plenty of laps to get themselves up to speed.
An added interest which has proven hugely successful are the 1000cc sidecars. This year sees one of the best line-ups in the class to date at Vazon. Current champions Rod and Billy Winterburn have had limited laps this year on the Grass, but when they have been out on track, they’ve been in fine form. Another former champion due to make his return to racing after a broken wrist is Rob Wilson and his passenger Terry Saunters. Rob began this season winning two meetings in a row and topping the National Gradings List. An injury at home brought a stop to Wilson’s season. He has a proven track record at Vazon and is bound to be in amongst the results.
Local hopes will lie with Clint Blondell and Kev Bennett. The pairing have been improving hugely on the Grasstrack this season and are well on the pace with some of Britain’s best. They would love to send some of the mainlanders back with their tails between their legs.
The SandAce British Championships is due to take place at Vazon Bay, Guernsey on Saturday 24th
June, with a 12pm start. Plenty of details for flights and ferries are available online, and the Channel Island hospitality is legendary! The presentation of awards is set to take place in the evening in a local hotel. If you’ve never been to this event before, it really is must-see racing action. Preview by Gareth Bemister – Images courtesy of Guernsey Motorsport