One of the toughest races in the world for motocross and enduro riders is now also the season finale of the World Enduro Super Series. Here’s everything you need to know about Red Bull Knock Out.
The biggest and toughest beach race in the world returns to Scheveningen, in the Hague, Netherlands, on November 10. Red Bull Knock Out pits riders from motocross, enduro, hard enduro, and rally raid against each other on bottomless, constantly shifting sands of the Dutch seaside town.
Scheveningen will be invaded by 1,000 riders pumped up for an event that, this year, has been incorporated into the inaugural World Enduro Super Series (WESS). After five months of competition to find the ultimate enduro champion, it all comes down to Red Bull Knock Out, the series’ finale.
Our bluffer’s guide to this brutal beach race will bring you up to speed on the trials and challenges of competing on this tough terrain.
How does Red Bull Knock Out fit into the WESS?
The beach race is the eighth and final round of the WESS, and will see riders go head-to-head on the shoreline of the North Sea. It’s a popular race and all the entries were snapped up within an hour of going on sale in March.
All racers compete on a motorcycle of their choice, and, like every other event in the WESS, it’s 100 percent independent with a uniformed points system applied.
What happens during the race?
The race, which is back after a year’s absence, follows a knock-out style format, with two heats. The qualification round sees 1,000 participants split into two groups, with each racing for one hour. Of those, 250 riders will be eliminated. The finish order determines the starting position for the 750 remaining riders competing in the afternoon’s final, which lasts two hours.
Sand-specialist riders will be strong favourites to stamp their authority on the Scheveningen beach front, making the battle to the finish line one of the most dramatic and exciting of the WESS competition.
What’s a beach race?
Red Bull Knock Out has been running since 2006, and is a race with roots in both enduro and motocross. Beach racing circuits are typically more motocross orientated, but longer like enduro special stages – usually between three and five kilometres in length – and run over enduro-like durations of between one and three hours.
The nature of a race like Red Bull Knock Out means that it’s tough on the riders and their bikes. The deep, constantly shifting sand surface is very physically to ride on, and sand particles can cause damage to sprockets, wheel bearings and chains, while the soft surface saps power and significantly increases the demand on engines and clutches.
Riders entering this year’s competition will need to make sure their bikes are meticulously maintained in the run up to the event.
What’s the track like?
This year, the course has been moved towards the pier and closer to the fans, meaning more curves and jumps.
It starts with an incredibly fast two kilometre straight, before riders are faced with jumps and various obstacles. One is the Wall of Death, an almost vertical wall with a jump at the front; another is named the Mystery X loop, and will remain a secret to racers until the start of the race.
The course is also 200m shorter compared to the track used in 2016, but three hours of riding through loose sand, over bumps, and through sharp bends will exhaust riders in one of the most intense races around.
Take a look at the 2016 course preview in the video below to get an idea of what riders can expect to face:
Who should we expect to see at the front?
Previous winners of Red Bull Knock Out have included Belgian motocross world champion Steve Ramon and Dutch MXGP race winner Marc de Reuver. Newly crowned MXGP world champion Jeffrey Herlings won the race back in 2016, after coming first in the qualifying race that same morning.
This year, there’s more to play for, as the inaugural WESS champion will also be crowned. Front runners for the title include the UK’s Billy Bolt, Germany’s Manuel Lettenbichler, Spain’s Josep García, as well as Wade Young, Graham Jarvis, and Paul Bolton.
What else should we know?
Australian FMX and stunt riding legend Robbie Maddison is planning to take part in this year’s race, and ahead of that the 37-year-old has been promoting the event. Known for his work on the James Bond film Skyfall, Maddison recently filmed a stunt piece on a motorcycle adapted to ride on the water of the Hague’s canals.