Pro vs punter, the riders' perspective: HydroGarden Weston Beach Race
Over 70,000 spectators, 1,000 riders and one notoriously tough course. We spoke to a seasoned pro, five-time British motocross champion Martin Barr, and a total newbie, off road sales manager for Honda UK Graham Foster-Vigors, about their respective performances at the HydroGarden Weston Beach Race.
In your own words, how would you describe the HydroGarden Weston Beach Race?
GFV: A crazy, insane, addictive and amazing experience.
MB: It’s one of the toughest on the calendar. A three-hour endurance race around a 6km track that starts out soft and finishes sloppy. It’s a test for man and machine. Many put it on their bucket list and take it on even if it’s just the one lap.
What position did you finish?
MB: I finished in third, which, for saying I’ve not sat on a bike in three weeks, is really satisfying.
GFV: My race was approximately one hour after a crash forced me to retire. That put me in 724th place.
What was your race prep like?
MB: Unfortunately, my circumstances meant I had zero preparation. I had a big crash in the last round of the British Championship, so the first time on a bike in three weeks was me going down the starting straight at almost 100mph.
I’ve been racing for over 20 years now, since I left school basically, so I’m kind of used to nerves on the start line. But when there’s 1,000 other riders your heart rate is definitely up there. There’s a lot of adrenaline knowing how rough and gnarly it’s going to be.
GFV: My training was non-existent. In terms of preparation, it was just lots and lots of coaching from the maestro that is Dave Thorpe and getting to be part of the factory team. My biggest mistake was not going to assess the course beforehand. One piece of advice from me: walk the course.
What was most challenging about the race?
MB: The most challenging thing is the opening two laps. You’re on the edge, trying to break the other riders, maybe even create a bit of a gap. All the fresh dunes have built up and they’re really soft so you can get stuck easily. And once you start lapping riders there are bikes and bodies everywhere.
Last year I wore my heart rate monitor and was told afterwards I needed eight days’ recovery. My heart rate was in the top zone for around two hours so it just goes to show you how much you’re pushing. It’s a tough race, both physically and mentally.
GFV: A few things troubled me: the sheer size of the dunes, 750 competitors starting all at once, and finding the right line. Whether it’s the riders crashed in front of you or the uneven terrain, it’s a constant challenge.
I also learned that I can push myself beyond limits I never expected. And that, for me, was the biggest takeaway.
Any memorable moments?
GFV: Riding flat out down the opening straight alongside the legendary Dave Thorpe. It doesn’t get any better than that. I know I work closely with Dave but I’m riding alongside a three times world champion, and for me that has to be a highlight.
MB: This year I had too many crashes. Two of them were my own fault and the other eight were due to others cutting across me or taking me out. Like I say, anything can happen and you can never go out there thinking you’re going to win it because there are so many others out there in the same boat. Everything has to go like clockwork.
How was the bike?
MB: The bike was awesome the whole way. I was riding a CRF450RX Enduro bike, completely standard. The first time I sat my arse on it was down the starting straight. And to jump on a completely standard bike and be competitive is quite something. To finish third on the hardest race in calendar, well it just shows you how good a bike it is.
GFV: I used the CRF250X, which is our Enduro 250. Standard everything and it was absolutely bulletproof. Dave actually did 14 laps on the same bike.
Any tips for next year’s riders?
GFV: If you look at the pros they’re always on their bikes. So I think practice, practice and more practice in sand would’ve been the right thing to do.
This year there were children as young as eight doing their race. I was there at 50 doing it for the first time. There was also one of our customers doing it at 69. So there really is something for everyone.
MB: Just go out and enjoy it. It’s something you have to go and experience. Just be open-minded and have fun.