By Ian Guy, Superside.com
October 19 2005
Superside FIM Sidecar World Championship
Sidecar racing was an integral part of the FIM Road Racing Grand Prix circus from its inception in 1949. The class has come a long way in the intervening years, with the most notable change being the move from motorcycle and sidecar to purpose-built single unit machines.
Englishman Eric Oliver was the supreme rider in the earliest years, taking four titles in the first five seasons with Norton, before the arrival of the Germans and BMW. Noll, Faust, Hillebrand, Schneider, and Fath took seven World Championships between 1954 and 1960. The first half of the 1960s was the era of Max Deubel and Emil Horner, who combined to take four consecutive titles.
By the turn of the ’70s, Klaus Enders was the rider to beat, winning a then record of six World Championships in a nine year period. Enders was followed by fellow German Rolf Steinhausen, who took victory in ’75 and ’76 - the first for a two-stroke machine, and ending BMW’s twenty year domination of the sport. In 1977 George O’Dell brought the title back to Britain for the first time since Oliver in 1953.
By the end of the decade, young riders from across Europe began to take on the German and British domination. Swiss ace Rolf Biland won his first of seven titles in 1978, while Frenchman Alain Michel was adept at winning races, but he would have to wait many years to lift the crown. In the ’80s they were joined on the scene by Egbert Streuer and Steve Webster.
These four, partnered most often by Kurt Waltisberg (Biland), Jean-Marc Fresc (Michel), Bernie Schnieders (Streuer), and either Tony Hewitt or Gavin Simmons (Webster), were the dominant riders of the era. From 1987 to 1991 these men shared the top four places in the championship every time - and kept the title in their close knit group from 1983 to 1994.
Biland’s career of twenty-one years led him to those seven championship titles, and an equal number of runner-up spots. Streuer took the crown in 1984-85-86, and Michel’s long wait ended in 1990. Webster was the top man in 1987-88-89, and he has since added seven more titles, including 2004 to take the record into double figures.
Since 1997, Grand Prix racing has concentrated on the solo classes, and the three-wheelers moved from the GP package of races to World Superbike events, changing the class to 1000cc four-stroke power. 2005 sees an independent new start for the sidecar class. Its popularity has for a long time been concentrated in Britain, Germany, Holland and Switzerland, and other parts of Northern Europe, and these countries will provide a healthy grid for the 2005 season, but promotors Superside have plans to again take the FIM Sidecar World Championship around the world in the coming years.