January 28th, 2018.

Report and images by Rob McDonnell.

Local French star Jeremy Forestier took his maiden win in the prestigious Le Touquet beach race on Saturday and in doing so retained his France Sand Championship title – while it was teenager Harry Walker - pictured above - who flew the flag for the large British contingent by securing an impressive 12th in a highly competitive field of 351.

Forestier retained his number 1 and red plate with a win.

Forestier, who took the lead with just over 30 minutes of the two and a half hour race remaining, eventually won by 36 seconds, from fellow Frenchmen Antoine Cheurlin and Florian Mangeot. It was his fourth win in the six-round series.

The only man who realistically had a chance to deny Forestier of the title, Holland’s Mike van Grinsven, had taken the holeshot, the fastest lap and led for half the race on his rocket ship Honda CRF450-powered hybrid. However, the motor eventually gave out, briefly handing Cheurlin the lead, before Forestier moved ahead.

Jamie Morgan (385) was the leading Brit on lap one.

Van Grinsven was one of a number of big-names who retired with technical problems, including Jeremie Warnia, Romain Couprie, Benoit Beroudiaux, Axel Dutrie, plus Brits, Sheldon Seal and Carl Bunce (see below).

Last year’s winner Jeremie Warnia retired with mechanical issues.

Walker’s ZIP Yamaha, however, ran faultlessly, and thanks to a ceded start position in the first wave given to him after his 13th place finish at the previous round of the series earlier this month, he was always in the mix.

His only real problem came two-thirds of the way through the race when he had to complete virtually a whole lap with a rear puncture after being rammed by a backmarker. The slow lap time effectively cost him a top ten finish.

John Mitchell (107) was as racy as ever before having to retire.

Championship regular Harry Miller, weakened by a heavy cold, put in a gritty ride to secure 16th place, while other Brits securing a top 100 finish were Oli Sansom, Ben Morgan, his son Jamie Morgan, and Laurence Stopps, who celebrated his 24th birthday with 98th.

Katie Hodgson was 110th on her big Can-Am, which was enough to give her a fine fourth overall in the female category – a seriously fought class in the French series.

Ben Russell (216) from Horsham in Sussex in the thick is it.

However, it was a not a good day for many of Britain’s fancied riders.

· Carl Bunce, who was fifth last year, didn’t even make the start after the chain on his new Yamaha broke on the way to the line in an area he could not be reached by his crew.

Birthday boy Laurence Stopps (117) made the top 100.

· Championship regular Sheldon Seal got a bit further, but not much, when the engine on the Husqvarna-powered YFZ he’s built to try and match the highly-tuned motors used by the top European riders, let go on the six-kilometer start straight.

· Former British Champion John Mitchell – having his “swansong” ride before finally retiring to concentrate on building a new house – was holding a top 50 spot when the water pump on his Yamaha broke.

Harry Miller finished every round of the sand series.

The event was also marred by a serious incident when a quad went through the flimsy trackside marking on a quick section that resulted in two spectators having to be airlifted out while the race was still in progress.

Mike van Grinsven – to finish first first you must finish!

Results: 1 Jeremy Forestier, France (Yamaha), 2 Antoine Cheurlin, France (Yamaha), 3 Florian Mangeot, France (Handy), 4 Randy Naveaux, Belgium (NXQuad), 5 Jean Marie Bernede, France (Yamaha), 6 Olivier van den Dijck, Belgium (Honda).

British: 12 Harry Walker (Yamaha), 16 Harry Miller (Yamaha), 42 Oli Sansom (Yamaha), 55 Ben Morgan (Honda), 81 Jamie Morgan (Honda), 98 Laurence Stopps (Yamaha), 104 David Vass (Yamaha), 110 Katie Hodgson (Can-Am), 119 Marco Zaffino/Chloe Green (KTM), 127 Craig Hodgkins (Yamaha), 215 Lorne Sinclair (Can-Am), 279 Danny Gilligan (Polaris).

Sand race regular Peter Betts hangs on in there!

British DNF: Sheldon Seal (YFZ/Husky), Carl Bunce (Yamaha), John Mitchell (Yamaha), Ben Russell (Yamaha), Peter Betts (Honda), Derek Burns (Can-Am), Ben Begbie (Honda).