ACU British Sand Masters Championship returns to Blackpool for two-day event

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Following the return of the Fylde ACU British Sand Masters Championship to the UK mainland last year, Blackpool’s Lytham St Anne beach will this year host an extended two days of sand racing.

Organised by the Cheshire Grasstrack Club (CGC) the 2022 event marked the return of the championship after a two-year hiatus after long-time organisers, the Guernsey Motorcycle Club and Car Club (GMCCC), decided not to continue it following Covid. It was also the first sand track racing in the area since Blackpool hosted a race in 1988.

Over the weekend of Saturday, July 29 and Sunday 30 the event returns after the club were asked by Fylde Borough Council to extend it to two days. Last year around 5000 people witnessed the oval track racing during a glorious sunny day.

Paul Cooper sand racing

In order to put on the event CGC are asking people for donations via a Crowdfunder page as the public nature of the event means it cannot charge an entry fee, but the club still has to cover the cost of ambulance and paramedic fees which they estimate to be around £3000.

Last year, riders from Guernsey, Cornwall, and Jersey as well as many from the UK mainland fought it out in tough conditions as water on the track led to many bikes to cut out or stutter around the track.

The format remains unchanged as races will see solo bikes, sidecars and quad bikes battle it out from 12.30pm each day on the oval track north of the North Beach area.

Sand racing returns to the UK mainland: Around 6000 spectators soaked up the sun for a day of competition near Blackpool

Published 28 September 2022, update 6 October 2022 by Stuart Prestidge

Paul Cooper celebrates a win

By any measure, the 2022 Fylde ACU British Sand Masters Championship, on Lytham St Anne beach, was roaring success with a day of gripping racing watched by thousands.

Organised by the Cheshire Grasstrack Club (CGC) the event marked the return of the championship after a two-year hiatus and long-time organisers, the Guernsey Motorcycle Club and Car Club (GMCCC), decided not to continue it following Covid. It was also the first sand track racing in the area since Blackpool hosted a race in 1988.

Paul Taylor, CGC member involved in the organisation, said: “We have had riders from Guernsey, Cornwall, Jersey and one lad for the original date (cancelled due to the Queen’s death) was going to fly in from Germany for it.

“It does mean a lot to them and we were very grateful to get the ACU to give it a British title. That gives it that little more prestige. We wanted it for a promotion of grass-track, speedway and long track sand racing.”

Sandtrack event at Lytham St Annes

The oval track proved to be punishing on the machines which included solos, sidecars and quads, due to factors beyond the club’s control, as Paul explains: “If I am being honest it was very challenging putting the track up yesterday (Saturday), in terms of the conditions.

“This was two inches underwater and we never ever thought that with the tide. We got the tide right but we didn’t get the wind right.

“From a motorcycling perspective I am a little disappointed for our competitors because they have had to take on too much water, you feel for them.

“They have turned up and not once complained, they have just got on with it, they have had bike breakdowns and not one has complained.”

In addition to the hard work by CGC members the racing wouldn’t have gone ahead without the permission on Fylde Council, who issued the event licence.

Sand racing bike

Councillor Gavin Harrison, Conservative member on the licencing committee, was at the race meet.

He said: “I think it has been a big success to bring this many people in to town on a Sunday afternoon, out of season.

“I struggled to find a car parking space which is always a good sign. Everyone wants to be here and everyone is enjoying it. Thanks to these guys (CGC) it’s free to watch. 

“We [Fylde Council] were fairly unanimous that we wanted to get the race. One of my things is this beach is big enough to lose a cup final on. I don’t think residents would want it every week but the more variety the better.”

A sidecar co-rider goes feet up as the pair race

Defending 2019 solo champion Paul Cooper of Trak Plus in York, showed all the guile of a seasoned professional after his engine gave way in one of the heats.

But with some quality riding in the other heats he made the final where he rode his back-up bike beating Charlie Powell to regain the ACU title.

Billy Winterburn and Ryan Wharton were triumphant in the ACU sidecar r/h class on their Ducker Yamaha R1, while Davy Nixon from Hexham rode his Honda 450 to victory in the quad class.

Cllr Harrison added: “I am impressed with the professionalism that these guys have brought to this. This is a proper, well organised event. “For the first time it’s brilliant, it can only get bigger and better.”

The ACU Sand Racing British Championship returns to the mainland

First published on 28 September 2022 by Stuart Prestidge

Paul Cooper, the 2019 sand racing champion will bid for another title

After the threat of cancellation, a two-year hiatus and a change of venue the ACU British Sand Masters Championship returns on Sunday, October 2 in Lytham St Anne.

The full day event had been a staple of the Guernsey Motorcycle Club and Car Club (GMCCC) calendar since 2006 when it was known as the Guernsey Sand Ace. It became the Sand Ace ACU British Championship in 2012 and was a perennial event until 2019.

Covid scuppered the 2020 meeting while the following year organisers GMCCC voted to scrap the championship entirely.

Enter the Cheshire Grasstrack Club (CGC), who have remarkably managed to rescue the event with just weeks to organise. David Norcott, co-organiser and administrator for CGC’s social media pages, explains how the championship was saved.

“I was at Belle Vue speedway one night and I had a conversation with Paul Ackroyd, who is the guy who runs the Speedway Riders Benevolent Fund and he lives in Lytham St Annes. He said ‘I look out of my lounge onto a lovely stretch of sand and it would be wonderful to have racing on it’.”

After consultations with the club the decision to stage the championship on St Anne’s beach was greenlighted and the rest, they say, is history.

With less than a year to organise from scratch CGC have pulled off an incredible feat to be able to stage a full race schedule featuring solo, sidecar and quad racing.

In January the club applied for an event licence to Flyde Borough Council, which, after consultations with other organisations including the RSPB, was granted in June.

CGC were then tasked with bringing the championship to life in just seven weeks. “It was a bit of a last-minute thing, putting the meeting together,” said Mr Norcott. “It’s been pretty horrendous to do it in such a short time. We wanted to bring sand racing back to the UK mainland.”

The club have also attracted former solo champions in Paul Cooper, the 2019 winner and James Shanes who was victorious in 2015.

Additionally the post and ropes course will be prepared on Saturday from 7am ready for racing on Sunday, a process which normally takes two weeks but will have to be completed in a day.

There are 15, 500cc solo riders, 11, 1000cc side car entrants, both left and right-handed, and 13 quad racers confirmed. Racing will begin around noon with timed laps to determine a ‘lap record’ before the competition proper starts at 12.30pm.

Racing is expected to end around 5.30pm followed by rider presentations. Entry is free and there will be a fairground and food and drink vendors at the event.