Gareth Hockey, Director of RHL Activities who are the event organisers of the HydroGarden Weston Beach Race Powered by KTM, is a man who is passionate about dirt bikes and even more so about great events.
Leading into the maddest, baddest, biggest and definitely most bonkers motorsport event in the UK, which takes place in Weston-Super-Mare on October 19-21, Hockey talks about the event this year, why he loves it so much and planning for the future.
“It’s the first time in the history of the event that I can ever remember the solo race being so full before we get there,” said Hockey.
“Every other class has passed last year’s entry – even the quads are up. I think we’re hitting what we want to hit, and the increased involvement of major brands from both in and out of the industry has definitely made it go to the next level.
“It’s become the event of the year for many off-road and motorcycle companies. These brands have chosen this race weekend to exhibit at, and that makes me very proud. I think from a spectacle point of view people coming have awesome value for money. We have a quad stunt rider, Dougie Lampkin versus Danny with the Trials bike and Extreme MTB team – there’s plenty to see and do. It will definitely be the best yet.”
The event is an off-road mecca for the masses. It’s a family day out for all, not just motorsport fans. It takes years to prepare for, weeks to construct and is three days of high-octane fun. RHL Activities are proud of their engagement with the local area, the growing nature and professionalism of the event, and being involved with the local schools – which now annually visit the beach as part of their educational days out.
“The schools day is really important to us. The motorsport industry is fantastic to be part of and there are many opportunities, whether that’s from an event management point of view, to the media, riders, drivers or being a mechanic. We are committed to educating young people – we aim to inspire and open their minds to new possibilities. We hope that in future this will bring new people to the sport who may not have engaged with it otherwise.”
For this year Hockey, who has been involved with the event since it began 36 years ago, says that the extreme dune course with a longer lap than previously will be the most challenging yet. He and the RHL team work hard to ensure the race retains its roots while ensuring the event meets the complexities of event legislation. For Hockey the point of arrival at the beach to construct the course still gives him the same buzz as the first year. And that’s why he keeps doing it.
“Our goal has always been to keep the event about what it was originally created for – an end of season fun bash for a bunch of dirt bike riders on a beach. It’s amazing – we have over 400 people involved in this event for that one weekend. It’s a huge figure, with huge man-hours. The race started with a bunch of guys who came back from Le Touquet (a beach race in France) sat on the Sealink ferry if I remember correctly and a mad idea that we’d find a beach in the UK. 36 years later and that idea has become an iconic event – I’m still involved and RHL is already planning 2020. We have a lot of ideas for the future.
“The event itself is the best bit for me. Once I get to course building week, and the event comes alive, that’s when the final stage starts because you see all the hours of hard work in offices, meetings, late nights, emails, phone calls, and so on actually become something. What you’ve imagined leading into the event begins to emerge. The RHL team and I always take each event to bits every year, and we’re never completely satisfied. We always want to improve. The day we run a perfect event is the time for us to stop.”
There’s a lot going on behind the scenes. RHL Activities work closely with the Avon and Somerset police, with North Somerset council and the many service providers operating at the event to consider all possible outcomes of an event of this scale. With 70,000 annual spectators, there’s a huge amount to consider that many attending would be oblivious to. The event considers the local area, the environment, the safety of those racing and spectating, as well as the general smooth operation of a weekend of this big – it’s no mean feat.
“We’ve come a long way from a much smaller event when everything was in racing together – quads, sidecars, solos, to how it is now,” said Hockey.
“To sum the spirit of the event up we had a rider last year didn’t do a lap but thought it was the best thing he’d done in his life, and he entered for next year as soon as the entry was open – that’s what the beach is about, having a go, pushing yourself, but having fun and from a spectator side seeing something utterly bonkers and having a great family weekend out.”