Whanganui Speed Week transferred from the streets and the hills onto the sand as the Wanganui Motorcycle Club held the first Beach Races since 1991 at South Beach this morning.

There were around 29 bikes entered across the five divisions on the 600-700m course, which was held to the north of where the group had practiced in late November as they tried to get through the whole programme before the slowly creeping tide took away half the course.

Some riders entered more than one division, while others showed the spirit of mateship or family loyalty by lending out a spare bike for others to compete.

Colin Matthews, left, looking to catch up with Seton Brown at the Whanganui Beach Races this morning.
Colin Matthews, left, looking to catch up with Seton Brown at the Whanganui Beach Races this morning.

The feedback from the riders was the WMCC should keep the same 600m length for the straight in future events, rather than the 800m used in national beach racing events, as they all adjusted to racing on South Beach for the first time.

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The key was finding the right line for each bike when they reached the two turns, with the startline moved to the north of the course, about two thirds of the way up the front straight.

It didn't get easier as the day was coming to its final races, with the water coming up and the barriers had to be moved back.

Nonetheless, over 100 motorsport fans, not yet fatigued from three straight days of Speed Week, made themselves comfortable on the sand and up in the dunes to watch the action.

The event also got the thumbs up from the competitors, as the signature Offroad Motocross (Overs) division was won by Mitch Rowe out of the 11 entrants.

"It was good. I've won the Burt Munro [Challenge] a couple of times before, which is the national beach racing," said Rowe.

"This year I wasn't going to go, so this has given me my speed fix."

"That 450cc class is the main class, and [runnerup] Ben Dowman is a good rider, I've had my battles with him in Supermotards."

Mitch Rowe, right, was winner of the Offroad Motocross (Overs) division, with Ben Dowman runnerup.
Mitch Rowe, right, was winner of the Offroad Motocross (Overs) division, with Ben Dowman runnerup.

Rowe was happy with his speed and negotiating some of the water approaching on the back stretch at the end of the event.

"Hit a few incoming waves in the last race, but they said next year is going to be better with the tide in the afternoon."

"Hopefully if the word gets out there, we'll get a few more racers next year."

The Offroad Motocross (Unders) division was won by Seton Brown, who made sure to thank brother Karl for letting him "thrash his bike on the beach".

WMCC president Colin Matthews, runnerup to Seton Brown, thanked organiser Barry Bailey for all his hard work, as he had approached the club six months before about resurrecting beach racing.

The club supported the idea, but could not give Bailey many resources as they were going to be flat out preparing the Boxing Day Cemetery Circuit.

"It has been a one-man team," Matthews said of Bailey.

Bailey thanked the Wanganui Classic Motorcycle Club for providing volunteer course marshalls, while Wanganui Rotary Club members looked after road closures.

Three tired marshals had literally done every event – Boxing Day's Cemetery Circuit, Thursday's Okoia Hill Climb, and the beach race.

"There's a whole lot of clubs involved, a lot of other groups," said Bailey.

"It's been a good opening event."

The pinnacle of the sport – the Indian Motorcycle NZ Beach Racing Champs at the Burt Munro Challenge, will be held on February 8 at Oreti Beach in Invercargill.

Results

MX Overs: 1. Mitch Rowe 50 points; 2. Ben Dowman 44; 3. Hayden Sherman.

MX Unders: 1. Seton Brown 50; 2. Colin Matthews 44; 3. Ben Dowman 40.

Road: 1. Karl Brown 50.

Classic/VMX: 1. Rusty Rhodes 50; 2. Chris Sales 42; 3. Peter Galpin 38.

Open: 1. Greg Ngeru 50; 2. Karl Brown 44; 3. James Galpin.