Defending champion Todd Kellett – Yamaha kicked off the 2024 FIM Sand Races World Cup with a dominant overall win in the Motorcycle category at today’s Enduropale du Touquet Pas-de-Calais as Belgium’s Amandine Verstappen – Yamaha led home the registered riders in the Women’s class and Mickaël De Souza – KTM got his campaign under way on top in the Veteran’s class.
Britain’s Kellett, who won the legendary race on the north coast of France last season before going on to claim the inaugural FIM Sand Races World Cup, started the three-hour race near the front of almost thirteen-hundred competitors and sat third following the opening lap less than six seconds off the lead.
By the end of the second thirteen-kilometre lap he was thirteen seconds ahead and he began to pull clear of a chasing pack that, by the completion of lap three, saw registered riders Lars Van Berkel – Honda from the Netherlands and Jeremy Hauquier – Honda from France running third and fifth.
Illustrating the depth of talent contesting this year’s series, Valentin Madoulaud – Yamaha held ninth at this point with Camille Chapeliere – KTM in twelfth, Maxime Sot – KTM sixteenth and Joey Nuques – Yamaha eighteenth and there could very well have been another registered rider running near the front if Belgian Yentel Martens – Honda, who started the series as a hotly-tipped rider, had not gone out on the opening lap.
By the end of lap four Kellett led by almost one-and-a-half minutes from Van Berkel and Hauquier and although Hauquier then lost third to Cyril Genot as the race approached the hour mark, France’s Chapeliere looked solid in eighth, two places ahead of his compatriot Madoulaud.
By the halfway point Kellett’s lead was almost two-and-a-half minutes and he was in complete control, using all his hard-won experience to find smart lines through the traffic as conditions got increasingly rough, but Chapeliere slowed dramatically and dropped out of contention.
On the penultimate lap Van Berkel fell and lost second position to Genot, but Kellett was out of reach and he completed his fifteenth and final lap with a winning advantage of two minutes and fourteen seconds with Van Berkel an additional thirteen seconds behind in third before a gap of over six-and-a-half minutes to fourth-placed rider Brian Bogers – Honda. “Today I feel like I’m back on my good level,” said Kellett. “It’s been a real challenge since my crash last October so I’m really pleased and proud to have done this. It’s a great start to the FIM Sand Races World Cup. This is the biggest beach race in the world – there’s no disputing that – and my secret [to winning] is just the sheer hunger and drive within me
The next registered rider to cross the line was France’s Maxime Sot – KTM who moved into the top twenty on lap two and pulled through all the way up to sixth overall with Hauquier finishing eighth, Nuques eleventh and Madoulaud sixteenth.
In the fight for supremacy in the Women’s class, Verstappen started strongly and charged from just inside the top one-hundred-and-fifty riders at the end of lap three all the up to eighty-second at the finish on a total of twelve laps. Mathilde Denis – Honda from France, who won last year’s Women’s class in the FIM Sand Races World Cup, finished a lap down on her rival in one-hundred-and-ninety-eighth.
“It was quite a complicated race physically, but from start to finish I kept my pace and held on,” said Verstappen. “So that produced a victory and a finish in the top one-hundred which I didn’t think I was capable of so I’m really pleased with my race.
The Veteran’s class is shaping up to be close and competitive this season with De Souza coming home in forty-second overall on thirteen laps, last year’s winner Arnaud Besnier – Honda finishing in eighty-first on twelve laps and Christophe Brucker – KTM completing a French one-two-three in one-hundred-and-seventh on eleven laps.
There is now a three-week break in the schedule before the six-round series resumes on 24-26 February with the Enduro del Verano in Argentina.
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To view the full 2024 FIM Sand Races World Cup calendar along with more information click here.