Lichfield’s Oliver Sansom claims 'dream victory' in beach race 'grand national'
Lichfield’s Oliver Sansom claimed a dream victory in the Weston Beach Race and what the quad bike rider describes as their ‘grand national’, writes Luke Powell.
On the 40th anniversary of the event in which the Staffordshire rider has competed in for over 25 years and takes place on the Weston-Super-Mare beachfront, the 36-year-old topped the podium at the conclusion of the three hour race.
Over 1000 riders took part with different categories and machines involved, and Sansom was delighted to take victory for him and his family including his younger sister Melanie who has cancer.
He said: “It’s like the Grand National for us. The beach turns into a massive track with man made obstacles including sand dunes, and water and mud bogs. It’s horrendous.
“It’s just man and machine.
“I've been chasing that race for the last 20 years. I won it when I was under 16. I’ve got as far as finishing third in the event in the full 20 odd years I’ve done it.
“This year everything went in my favour and we got the win.
“I was elated and really happy. My sister’s had cancer for three years, and I’ve got the hashtag win for Mel.
“As I came over the line there’s a picture of us on facetime with Melanie in hospital and she’s over the moon.
“I dug deep, a lot of preparation and training went into it. It was very emotional for me, my team and my family and meant a lot.
“It’s the biggest race you can win in the UK in my sport. It’s like winning the FA Cup for me.”
Although riding as a professional, the Lichfield-rider and two-time national champion calls the sport a ‘professional hobby’.
Sansom is grateful to those who’ve helped him along the way, especially his mechanic.
“It costs me a lot of money, time and dedication to do it,” said Sansom.
“There’s no prize money and I have to make a lot of sacrifices in life.
“It’s a team event where everyone has to get involved. I want to give a big thanks to my mechanic Matty, because they’re the unsung heroes that make it happen in the background.”
The 36-year-old has been involved in the sport for the majority of his life, racing around the world in the USA, Estonia, Latvia and Poland.
Away from the track Sansom who has also represented Team GB works within his community and with the local authorities, council and police running a local track with the aim to as Sandom says: “Get kids off the streets, providing them a place to ride.”
“What we try to do is to try and get the focus onto something else. It’s not a sport you hear about. I want to get the word about.
“There’s a lot of illegal riding going on at the moment and I want to get rid of the nostalgia that it’s got of all the lads riding about with no helmets, no insurance, on the roads causing a nuisance and giving the sport a bad name.
“Something I have done before and I want to start doing is going round schools and doing a demonstration of what the sport is about. Saying, this is what you can do if you put your mind to it.
“It needs those figures out there to say this is what we do and to put some positivity in the sport. If you put your mind to it you can be a champion, but it takes hard work and dedication.”
Sansom has begun competing in the French Sand Championships and has recently ridden in Barmouth where the Lichfield-rider has won seven times.
The 36-year-old enjoys the thrill of the sport despite the risks involved.
He said: “I’ve always been involved in high-adrenaline sports.
“You have to have the right people around you who understand it.
“I’ve broken my back, my vertebrae, and collar bones. What I don’t like to say is that it’s really dangerous. Yes it is, but so are a lot of things.
“It’s one of those things, why do you like going to Alton Towers on the scary rides? Because, if they weren’t scary it wouldn’t entice you to go on them.
“It has its element of danger which makes it fun.”