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Superside FIM Sidecar 2005 - Brands Hatch report

FIM Sidecars

By Ian Guy,
May 11 2005

The 2005 Superside FIM Sidecar World Championship began in fascinating style at the weekend, with the opening round at Brands Hatch, using the new multi race format of Match Races, a Sprint Race and the main Gold Race.

And the revitalised Sidecar World Championship event attracted some celebrity guests, including the 1953 World Champion passenger Stan Dibben, 1980 British Sidecar Grand Prix winners Derek Jones and Brian Ayres, and the lovely Emma Parker-Bowles - who despite arriving back in the UK from a 20 hour flight the day before, was desperate to see the Team Roberts Racing pair of Tim and Tristan Reeves in action. The journalist, niece of Prince Charles’ new wife, had completed more than a dozen laps of the Brands Hatch circuit from the passenger tray of Reeves’ sidecar at the pre-event press day a few weeks ago, and was keen to cheer the team on.

Match Races

After qualifying, which had been affect by a heavy downpour just before the second session, the teams were split into their 4 groups for the Match Race Heats. It was the first time for the public to see the competitors in action for points. The format is simple, despite racing against only a small group of sidecars, each team needs to go as fast as possible to try and move forward to the next stage. Only the winners of each Heat race were guaranteed a place in the Semi-Finals. The remaining teams would need to be in the next fastest eight finishing times to be sure of progressing.

Webster, Reeves, Steinhausen, courtesy of
Webster/Woodhead (1) lead Reeves/Reeves (77) and Steinhausen/Hopkinson (22) · picture courtesy of

Heats: 5 Laps
17th Fastest qualifiers Andy Peach and Nick Webb romped to victory on their Team Readymix Suzuki in the still wet conditions of the opening Heat, thus ensuring their place in the first of the semi-finals. The German / Swiss pairing of Mike Roscher and Adolf Hanni took a narrow win in the second Heat to join Peach.

Gallros, Peach, courtesy of
Gallros/Briggs (3) battle with Peach/Webb (81) · picture courtesy of

Heat three saw the teams placed 6th –11th in qualifying do battle. Bill Philp and Rick Long on the 155 Media backed machine headed home Andy Laidlow and Patrick Farrance who were making their World Championship, and Brands Hatch debuts. Whilst the fourth and final Heat matched together the fastest 5 qualifiers of Reigning World Champions Steve Webster and Paul Woodhead [Castrol Suzuki]; Tim and Tristan Reeves; Reeves’ team mates Bryan Pedder and Rod Steadman; former British Champion Richard Gatt and passenger Paul Randall; and the Anglo/German pair of Jorg Steinhausen and Trevor Hopkinson on their Q8 sponsored machine, returning to top flight racing after a year away.

As expected Webster and Reeves traded blows at the front, with the Champion having to settle for second position. But, as if the 5 lap dash wasn’t drama enough, Pedder spun at Clearways and Steinhausen made a move around the outside, and a luckless Gatt had no where to go in avoiding the spinning machine, and bounced through the kitty-litter and into the tyre wall at speed. This left Steinhausen clear in third, whilst Pedder came straight into the pits. With these two out of the running, a life-line was thrown to the two Finnish teams of Pekka Paivarinta, and Tero Maninnen, who hadn’t expected to go further.

Semi-Finals: 5 Laps
The first semi-final combined the winners of heats 1 and 2, along with the 5th-8th next fastest teams from all of the heats. And it was a determined looking Dan Morrissey and Rob Biggs on their Team Advan/Excalibur Suzuki who forced past Roscher and Hanni to secure a place in the Final.

Semi-Final two had the winners of Heats 3 and 4 [Reeves and Philp], and the next fastest 4 teams who were Webster, Steinhausen, Laidlow, and Steve Norbury and Scott Parnell who had quietly been making progress on the Team Lockside Windle-Suzuki.

Once again it was Webster and Reeves who provided the main action, with some fierce overtaking manoeuvres and plenty of paint swapping – and this wasn’t yet the race for points! Reeves again finished ahead of Webster and Steinhausen.

Final: 5 Laps
With the formula now becoming clear to everybody, the two semi-final winners, Morrissey and Reeves were joined for the Final on Sunday morning by the next fastest four teams from both of the semi-finals – Webster, Steinhausen, Philp, and Laidlow.

And so the stage was set for an exciting showdown that in just over 4 minutes would decide who collected the first 25 points towards the 2005 World Championship.

Having lost out twice already Steve Webster and Paul Woodhead looked in determined mood and powered their Castrol-Suzuki away from the line. But Tim and Tristan Reeves, who sensed their first ever World Championship race win was within their grasp over the short distance, were equally determined.

Reeves, Webster, courtesy of
Reeves (77) and Webster (1) pull away · picture courtesy of

The rivals were side by side going into Paddock Hill Bend for the first time, with Webster managing to squeeze Reeves out, and lead up the hill towards Druids. Defending the inside line, Webster and Woodhead were surprised, as Reeves managed to haul the Team Roberts machine around the outside and take the advantage on the run down to Graham Hill bend. But Webster wasn’t keen to allow them the glory again – when 25 points were at stake. Leaving his braking desperately late, Webster stuck his machine up the inside at Graham Hill Bend, and just managed to hold the line on the exit to stay in front. Despite his best efforts, and a fair degree of paint swapping, Reeves couldn’t regain control and it was Webbo and Woody who took the 25 points reward. Jorg Steinhuasen and Trevor Hopkinson were a distant 3rd, ahead of an impressive Championship debut from Andy Laidlow and Patrick Farrance. Dan Morrissey and Robert Biggs just managed to pip Bill Philp and Rick Long to the finish line to claim 5th position, the Essex rider’s best ever result.

The Match Races had lived up to their promise of providing quick-fire entertainment and give a chance for some of the lesser financed teams to shine against the odds.

Sprint Race – 15 Laps

There was drama as the teams readied themselves for the start of the 15 lap Sprint Race. Richard Gatt on the second row of the grid stalled the GNR supported LCR-Suzuki, bringing out the red flag before anybody had moved.

After a second warm-up lap the race distance was reduced to 14 laps. The Reeves brothers got the advantage at the green light this time around, to lead from Webster, Gatt, Philp, Steinhausen, Laidlow and Pedder.

Knowing there was a little more time to settle into a race pace this time out, Webster chose his moment carefully to hit the front half way through. Behind the leading two, Gatt and Randall were having a tremendous race in 3rd position holding off the attentions of Steinhausen and Pedder who was keen to make up points after failing in the Match Race.

In the end Webster powered his way to another win - lowering the Brands ‘Indy’ circuit lap record to 47.576s in the process. Reeves gamely held the Castrol LCR-Suzuki in site, and finished just 2.3s behind. With two laps to go Steinhausen eventually found a way past Gatt as the British rider got onto cement dust from an earlier incident and momentarily lost drive. Despite a well deserved 4th position, both Gatt and Randall were disappointed, having let their first podium slip from their grasp.

Gold Race – 30 Laps

In the late afternoon sunshine the teams lined up on the grid for the third and final time of the weekend. 30 laps of the short 1.2mile circuit was going to be hard work for both the driver and passenger. A brave Bryan Pedder and Rod Steadman just managed to get their machine ready for the warm-up lap after heavily rolling their LCR-Suzuki just 30 minutes earlier whilst taking part in one of the National series races supporting the World Championship events. The Team Roberts machine had spun [again] at Clearways, and somersaulted 1 and a half times before coming to rest, upside-down on top of Pedder. It was a credit to the well prepared team that the machine was fit and well to start the final race – even if it didn’t look very pretty. And testament to the strength, determination, and perhaps madness that both Brian and Rod were raring to get back on!

When the starting lights went out for the final time it was again Reeves who managed to nose ahead of his main rival Webster. As the two top teams immediately began to pull away at the front, Gatt and Randall were having another good ride, holding 3rd position ahead of Steinhausen, Martien and Tonnie van Gils who had been having a difficult weekend with the Maton Racing Etec Suzuki; Bill Philp; and surprising everybody, Pedder and Steadman.

On lap 5 Webster and Woodhead hit the front, and began to open up a small but significant gap over their pursuers. Meanwhile, Gatt was beginning to edge away from Steinhausen as the laps ticked away, and were looking comfortable for their first World Championship podium.

Lap 13 was unlucky for Bill Philp and Rick Long, as they had a collision with the back of the van Gils machine. Exiting Graham Hill Bend, the Maton machine appeared to slow, and the closing Philp could do nothing to avoid the impact, and slither up the grass bank to towards the paddock roadway. The team had already need to repair the bodywork before the event even started – their trailer becoming unhitched on route as wrecking itself and contents against a lamp-post. With more shattered bodywork, it was the end of their race.

Then on lap 16 there was more drama. Webster suddenly slowed coming out of Clearways, and coasted straight into Pit-Lane with a dead engine. On the other side of the pit-wall, Tim and Tristan Reeves swept across the start/finish line with a now comfortable lead over Gatt, with Steinhausen even further back in 3rd. The last ten laps saw the first three maintain their gaps, with Pedder holding a fine 4th position.

At the end of the 30 laps it was Local favourites Tim and Tristan Reeves who took their first World Championship race victory - and with Webster not collecting any points, the pair also took the lead in the World Championship table.

The new format had provided some great racing for both the spectators and the teams. “I wasn’t sure about the Match Race idea before the weekend - but it’s proved to be a real spectacle for the public, and great fun for the riders” enthused Paul Woodhead.
A sentiment echoed by nearly all of the drivers and passengers involved. Finland’s Tero Manninen summed things up “You must give 110% for every lap in your Match Races – because you never know what will happen in the others, and you have to give yourself every chance of moving to the next stage. It’s good, I like it”.

So at the end of a successful weekend’s racing, Tim and Tristan Reeves are on top of the World, with Webster and Woodhead in second, 2 points ahead of Steinhausen and Hopkinson who, despite being unhappy with their performance, managed to finish on the podium each time. The biggest surpise of the event was the performance of Andy Laidlow and Patrick Farrance. A fourth position in the Match race final, and two 5th places gives them 4th overall so far, with Gatt and Randall, and Morrissey and Biggs completing the top six.

Round two takes place at the long Hungaroring circuit on 28-29 May, with just a single Gold Race for the competitors.

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