Normandy Beach Race, 3rd edition
Put together in a context still widely disturbed by the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Normandy Beach Race hit hard. The organizers gathered 100,000 spectators and 125 competitors from 14 countries, which was quite a feat for an event that was only in its third year of existence!
The Normandy Beach Race is a fairly new event. The first edition was held in 2019, thanks to Jean-Marc Lazzari, Marc Félix and Thomas Hervé, who after participating in TROG (The Race of Gentlemen) in California in 2016, wanted to create a French version of that fantastic event. Putting together this type of race in France was not an easy task, with environmental protection authorities leaving very little hope of seeing the project come to life. However, a meeting with Romain Bail, Mayor of Ouistreham, a small town in Normandy, will set things in motion. Mr. Bail even kick-started the project by joining the NBR organizers and making Riva Bella beach, also known as Sword Beach, available to them. This beach was a significant site of the Second World War during D. Day, in 1944.
The wheels are in motion, and nothing can stop them, not even the pandemic! The organizers will work with the authorities to set up sanitation protocols to be able to welcome the crowds in optimal conditions. The experience acquired in 2020 will be very useful in this new edition. The Normandy Beach Race is open to cars and motorcycles, but the latter need to have been built before 1947. On the mechanical front, the engines must be vintage but can be modified, and, of course, the safety elements must be in perfect working order. The general appearance of the motorcycles as well as that of the drivers must be “historically correct”, and vintage racing outfits are highly recommended!
On Friday, the streets of Ouistreham are overflowing with excitement! The spectators, already gathering in large numbers, are filling the streets of the seaside town with their hot rods and bikes. The NBR competitors present their vehicles to technical control to validate that the motorcycles and cars meet the safety requirements.
The runs start at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday on the Riva Bella beach. They take place on over 200 metres but there is no timing, no winner, and no trophy to win, just the pleasure of participating and living a unique experience. Among the 56 bikes selected, we see a majority of Harley WL, WLC, and WLA with modified mechanics, as well as Indian, Triumph, Norton, Royal Enfield, Nimbus and some French bikes inspired by Monet-Goyon or Peugeot. Although there isn’t anything to win, the competitors are not there as tourists. Many have spent over a year preparing their rides and intend on leaving the mark of their Firestone in the Norman sand! Others have travelled long distances to take part in this timeless race, such as Klaus Poulsen from Denmark with his 1935 Nimbus Sport Special, Christian Medelnick from Germany with his Indian Chief 338, and Vincent Priestly from England with his 1945 Ariel 500 Red Hunter! The runs follow one another frantically on the track and everyone will ever forget the duel opposing Craig Roberts on his Knuck 47, “The Chinook Wind,” and Thomas Hervé, one of the organizers, also on a Knuck 47!
Meanwhile, the public can enjoy the car show gathering 350 vehicles from before 1964 on the coastline of the Riva Bella beach. The participants come from all over France and Europe with hot rods, custom bikes or classic American cars. Access to the car show is free, as is the entire NBR. Both will attract and delight many spectators.
At the end of the day, there is a short break for the riders and their machines to recover. After sunset, a night run is planned. This particular event is unique to the Normandy Beach Race. Spotlights are placed near the ground and offer a rather shadowy lighting of the track. The runs follow one another in an extraordinary atmosphere which is intensified by the weather of the early evening.
On Sunday, the runs are held with a new set of competitors, which renews the audience’s interest. There was something in 2021. A new run was held with about thirty VW buggies, which are particularly at ease on the Riva Bella beach. At the end of the day, the public and the competitors were invited to take part in the “clean beach” action where everyone comes together to erase any trace of this memorable event.
In only three years, the Normandy Beach Race has become a major international event in the small world of beach races. We can’t wait to discover what the organizers are planning for the next edition of this timeless event!