Le Touquet has been ‘the place to be’ in January for off-road enthusiasts for the last 47 years as the French city greets thousands of competitors taking part in the iconic event, the most famous beach race in Europe. Launched in 1975 by Thierry Sabine, the man who also created the Rally Dakar, the race has continued to grow through the decades and this weekend a total of more than 2000 competitors will enter in the five races for young hopefuls, juniors, veterans, quads and the main event.
The event is the sixth and final round of the French championship, and Team Kawasaki Sand is leading the series with Axel Van de Sande. The twenty-four year old Belgian joined the team when it was built last summer and has been remarkably consistent, scoring two podium results and finishing in the top eight of all the races. Runner-up at Le Touquet in 2016, Axel missed the last edition due to injury but is a definite podium contender this weekend and is well placed to be the next French champion. “Le Touquet is of course the main race of the year for all the beach riders, and for the last two years now I’ve been working to be on top this Sunday. Coming here with the red plate on my Kawasaki is nice; we’ve been working hard with the team and we have been leading throughout most of the series,” explained Axel who works in the family business during the week. “When I started racing I shared my time between beach races and motocross, but in recent years I’ve focused on sand races,” he added. This weekend Axel will be behind the gate with 1200 other riders, for the three hours race. “The main difference between Le Touquet and the other races is for sure the number of riders, also the fact that it’s a longer race and that the straight along the beach is much longer than at the other races. For sure I will be looking for the overall win, but also for the title; I just need to finish the race in a good position to get this title.”
As France is the leading country for beach racing, it’s the French arm of Kawasaki Motors Europe which is in charge of this new programme. Fred Bassaler has a long experience of beach races, and has been involved in the development of the KX450F. “Even though the base is very good we had a lot of work to prepare the bikes as racing for three hours on a beach is very different to motocross. The main differences are the bigger fuel tank (15 litres), a different gearbox as the bikes exceed 160 km/h on the beach, larger radiators and a different swinging arm,” revealed the French off-road technical manager. In the long history of this race Kawasaki won the 1992 edition with Yann Guedard, and on Sunday at 1.30pm Axel and Timotei Florin, who scored a fifth position two weeks ago in the penultimate round of the series, will be Kawasaki's official representatives.