David Knight MBE is certainly a legend of the HydroGarden Weston Beach Race. The four-time Enduro World Champion has won at the event six times, including a quad victory, and this year he’s back, he’s ready for it and he’s looking forward to a great weekend on the sands of Weston-Super-Mare on October 13-15. We caught up with the Manxman to find out exactly what he’s beenup-to…
Knighter it’s been a while since we’ve heard a lot about what you’ve been doing or racing, can you give us a bit of an update?
“I’ve done quite a few races this year, but I had a new hip put in late November 2016. I’d had hip surgery in 2011 to tidy things up, but it only worked well in my left hip. I was out for a long time with that, but in the last three years I’d say I’ve really been struggling. I’ve been scared to put my foot down and going through the cycle of pain killers, hurting it, struggling with it, more pain killers. I was living in agony, and the worse thing was I couldn’t do the little things like bend down and play with the kids. Even watching TV was uncomfortable. The first guy I saw said I’d probably never race again, but I saw a really good surgeon in the Isle of Man. It didn’t matter really to me, as I was in so much pain it had to be sorted whether I could race again or not.”
Things must have gone okay as you’re back on a bike and seem to be riding a fair bit, right?
“Ross (the surgeon) was convinced I would be fine. I was pretty ill for the first couple of weeks after the surgery, but on the third week I started feeling a bit better, then in week four I rode a bike for the first time. I was at a practice day and Ross called to say he thought I could ride. I thought he was joking and said I’m not bothered, I’d rather leave it longer, but he thought it would do me some good. I couldn’t put my socks on at that point, but after getting on the bike and stretching it a little bit, it was sore for sure, then after a night’s rest I could get my socks on the next day and I never looked back.”
So you didn’t mess about much and got back racing again?
“After a steady few weeks I was getting there. I did a race in Wales in January, I was battling with Graham (Jarvis) but took a wrong turning and ended up in a hole up to my handlebars, although apart from that I was racing for the win, which was really nice for me because while I didn’t have the fitness, my hip felt good. It’s August now and they said it would take 18 months to get the hip to its best, but even looking back over the last two months since the race I did in Mexico, my hip is a lot better than it was then. Hopefully in another three months it will be another big step in flexibility. It’s probably better now than it has been for 10 years.”
How have the races gone since then?
“I’ve had some real stupid luck in the races in the British Extreme and that, but my speed is there, and I know that things are in the right direction. At the Mexico race they had some issues with the organisation, but the first big full day I won and there was a few top boys there, so I know I’m getting back to where I need to be. I’ve done training schools in Mexico and Israel, which have been good, I’ve been busy with them, my training schools and tours in the Isle of Man and doing the races I want to do, without going overboard. I’ve done the Isle of Man Enduro Championship and there are some good riders in that including the McCanneys – I’ve won all five rounds so that’s been good too. They’re pretty old school with special tests like they used to be, and I did the Tough 100, which was also good. Unfortunately the Red Bull Romaniacs wasn’t great for me, I was crashing and some of the race was a bit much, but I had good days with positive results to take away.”
How do you see things going forward from here?
“The biggest problem is getting enough time training. You’ve got to pay bills and got to work. I’ve been doing a bit of testing, suspension work, in fact I never know what I’ll be doing. It would be nice to have an income and a routine. One week I’m testing tyres, the next week I’m doing training schools, then a race. I’ve even been in Bosnia doing training schools as well as racing. Having said that it’s been great doing some of these special races in places I maybe wouldn’t have thought to go, because you’re meeting new people and it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. There’s much less rushing than racing world championship, and you get to socialise with it. I think I’m probably enjoying it now more than ever.”
The HydroGarden Weston Beach Race is an event you’ve always relished in doing; tell us a little bit about that?
“The HydroGarden Weston Beach Race is one of those special races, I’ve only ever DNF’d or won it – I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but luck has a lot to do with it. The last two times I’ve been really prepared, I had a Yamaha France bike and the bike was great, but it broke down after two laps and then the year after the same thing happened again. It’s typical Weston. In some years I did an indoor on the Friday and Weston on the Sunday with no prep, turned up with a bike that was a practice bike and won. It’s strange! I’ve had bad luck in the last two years, but when I won it I felt like it was a holiday race. I love it there, I’ve enjoyed the success. I’ve won on a bike and a quad, as has my brother. It would be hard to do that again and you’d need to train for it, but who knows.”
What do you think your chances are this year?
“At Weston anything can happen, you can’t predict it. Jonny (Walker) could do well, but he lacks experience. To be honest you get AMCA guys that can do well because of the experience. Todd (Kellet) was impressive last year, and he has that experience you need to do well. His brother doesn’t ride a lot but can finish top 10 at Weston. It’s one of those races. We’ve had Stefan Everts and Josh Coppins there in the past and Marc De Reuver when he was the best sand rider in the world, and I lapped him! So it’s sand, but not sand like we think in motocross. So we’ll just have to see, it’s about surviving the three hours”
What is your strategy for the race?
“It’s a big race; one of the iconic races in the UK. It’s a special race that’s still going – it has had its ups and downs but I think it’s on its way up a bit more again now. There’s been some lean years, which is better as a rider, but getting through the first half hour unscathed is the most important thing when the entry is as big as it is now.”
Do you have any advice for first-timers?
“For a newcomer I’d say you need to treat it like a long distance hare and hound or enduro race. You see guys going into the first or second turn like they’re doing a Grand Prix motocross qualifying and end up cartwheeling down the track! You don’t need to be in the lead, but for someone looking for a win you need to be around top 10 first lap, as the bottlenecks can allow people to get ahead of you with the fences being opened. You need to use your head and bike preparation is massive for Weston. You need the bike to last for three hours in that sand. So often you can get to an hour to go and you’ve no brakes, your chain is hanging off, your sprocket teeth are worn. You need the right equipment! It still doesn’t guarantee anything, you can ride through lakes and prep on the beach and not find a problem that you might get at Weston, but it will help. You don’t want to give all your tips away though do you!”
We look forward to Knighter lining up on the start for this year’s HydroGarden Weston Beach Race event on October 13-15 2017. For more information, entry and tickets please visit www.westonbeachrace.com Photo Future7 Media.