Violet, who is among the favourites following his solid showing in last year’s inaugural series, ended the gruelling two-and-a-half-hour event on the shores of northern France in seventh overall, but as the first registered rider home he now moves into an early series lead.
Belgium’s Olivier Vandendijck – Honda led the registered riders after the opening lap in fifth overall, three places ahead of Manfred Zienecker – Honda from Germany with Keveen Rochereau – Honda from France also slotting into the top fifteen as his compatriot Michel Trannin – Honda, who won last season’s series, sat all the way back in forty-fifth.
With four-hundred riders lining up at the start, the opening laps were chaotic and on lap two Vandendijck lost eight positions as both Zienecker and Rochereau moved ahead of him. At the same time Trannin was moving up the leaderboard and passed Axel Dutrie – Yamaha, one of the favoured Quad Veteran riders.
Following a huge push on lap three, Violet forced his way from outside the top twenty up to twelfth and was on the shoulder of Zienecker, but Rochereau – who won the Monte Gordo Sand Experience in Portugal, the final round of the 2023 series – was badly delayed and when he came around to complete lap four he was all the way back in one-hundred-and-eighty-ninth position.
With almost an hour on the clock Zienecker and Violet were both running in the top ten with Vandendijck the third of the registered riders in eighteenth, three positions ahead of Trannin who in turn was four places ahead of Frederic Lefebvre – Yamaha.
With the thirteen-kilometre course becoming increasingly tougher, Violet made his move on Zienecker on lap eight and then increased his advantage to come home in seventh to secure maximum points in the 2024 FIM Sand Races World Cup competition.
“I’m very happy to have finished seventh,” said Violet. “I got off to a bad start and I was really champing at the bit. This is really my home here in Le Touquet where all my family and friends are. We spent hours and even weeks preparing and today it’s paid off and I can’t wait to continue.”
Zienecker brought it home in thirteenth as second registered rider to finish with Trannin – despite breaking a shock absorber before the halfway mark – scoring solid points in nineteenth to complete the FIM Sand Races World Cup top three, one position ahead of Vandendijck.
Following a remarkable race-long charge, Rochereau kept his title hopes alive with an incredible twenty-sixth overall which placed him fifth among the registered riders.
After ending the race in an impressive twenty-seventh, Dutrie took an early lead in the Quad Veteran class ahead of Portugal’s Nuno Goncalves as Nathanaelle Abgrall led home the Women’s class after battling her way through to sixtieth.
“It was a good race,” said Abgrall. “Unfortunately, I was stuck in the first few laps – a guy hit me and I had to stop but that’s just the way the race goes. It’s the first race of the World Cup so it’s a good start.”
The day’s 2024 FIM Sand Races World Cup action got under way in the morning with the Moto Junior race where Paolo Maschio – Kawasaki finished in third overall and was the leading registered rider as he topped the Junior 2 class while Maxime Miet – KTM was the highest-placed finisher in Junior 1. Ema Satabin – GASGAS was the first registered rider across the line in the Women’s class.
The riders now have three weeks to regroup and prepare for the second round of the series – the Enduro del Verano in Argentina – which runs from 24-26 February.