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31st January 2006

Sidecars at Mallory Park

There may only be two wheels on your wagon, but Roy Workman suggests that any bike enthusiast will enjoy at day at the (three-wheeled) races...

Last year marked the tenth annual Festival of Sidecars at the Mallory Park racetrack. This is the world's biggest gathering of racing sidecars and it is organised by the Retford and District Motor Club Limited.

Not sure who gets most comfortable ride...

I had a nice run to Mallory, in good and dry weather. I was going to meet up with my friend, Mel Bedingham of the MZ Club, who had camped there the previous night. I was just paying my money at the gate when my mobile rang; it was Mel. It's not easy to answer the phone with your helmet on and ride the bike at the same time, but we managed to understand each other and we met up five minutes later. I parked up in the bike park opposite the start straight. This area steadily filled up, with sidecars including a couple of trikes and a few solos.

Jim and Rose D'arcy, of Charnwood Classic Restorations, arrived on their Triumph Rocket 3 outfit. This outfit created quite a lot of interest. Jim has modified the front wheel set up, and he told me that the outfit is very rapid to 80 mph, after which it starts to tail off. He has colour-matched it and it looks very impressive.

(I've had a ride in the chair and on the pillion of that very machine, with Jim D'arcy at the controls. VERY impressive! Acceleration to make your eyes bulge, and don't-back-off steering which tackles even small roundabout with unexpectedly nimble ease. One of life's memorable experiences. Rowena).

There was a full spectrum of sidecar racing from the fastest to the vintage machines; there were 16 races in the full day's programme, with a break for lunch.

The main race of the day was the Race of the Champions. This featured the 2005 world champions Tim and Tristan Reeves and the 2002 world champions, Steve Abbott with passenger Jamie Biggs, and the French number two racer Phillip Le Bail, as well as and some other continental riders.

Steve Webster, the world's greatest sidecar racer, retired at the end of the Assen Grand Prix in 2005. He had won a total of 10 world titles. We now have other world champions in Tim and Tristan Reeves, who progressed from club racing to world champions in six years.

A walk over the bridge got us into the paddock area. Walking around I recognised Jim Blanchard, who used to race solos - he was manning a stall selling his motorcycle art work. His brother, John, was a well known racer.

Donald Kay, the Scottish sculptor, was here again. His quality pewterware included a nice Vincent twin; he also had engraved glass items on display. He told me that he has recently been selling more glass products than normal. He was approached at the TT and commissioned to produce a limited edition plaque to commemorate Joey Dunlop. This was an honour.

Dugson Fabrications [DDR Sidecars] had on display a wide selection of fibre-glass, carbon fibre fairing seats and air boxes. They also do brakes, discs and hubs - a useful firm for the sidecar racer, as the firm itself has 20 years' racing experience.

The new world champions had a wonderful set up in the paddock. There was an artic lorry with a viewing gallery on the roof; on ground level there was a covered hospitality suite and an area for the team to work on their two outfits. The Hanks family also had a large area whilst a lot of other riders were working out of the back of Transit-type vans or small lorries.

Classic Sidecar Stuff on

It was well worth a walk around the paddock to look at the various outfits. Luckily I had Mel with me, who was pointing out the various technical aspects of some of the machines

The racing was fast and furious in all the classes. We have to spare a thought for the passenger; one outfit pulled up as the lady passenger had obviously crocked her leg. She was in pain and could just about walk, and the driver gave her a big hug. An hour or so later this girl was still limping around the paddock.

On another occasion going through the chicane an outfit got into trouble; the passenger started to slide out of the sidecar, and his feet were dragging on the tarmac. He fought hard to stay aboard, but he lost and bounced onto the track. Luckily the following outfits missed him I think, although by now he had slid out of view. It was a heart-stopping moment. The marshals helped him over the safety barrier and no red flags went up, so I would think the passenger was 'shaken but not stirred'.

Shaw's Corner

Mel and I changed viewing positions for the afternoon session to Shaw's Corner, which is a complete U-turn followed 50 yards later by a chicane then a sweeping left hand bend then the start straight; the rest of the track is like a large oval. A few years ago the members of the Federation of Sidecar Clubs were invited to ride a few parade laps. I rode around on my own outfit, although only pottering along, maybe doing 80mph on the straight. Some of the members fairly flew past me. Two riders got stopped for being too quick! I found that going into the U-bend this came up very quickly; you needed every brake you had for the turn and then had to move over for the chicane. It was a great experience!

Some time ago Steve Webster lapped this circuit at 100mph. Later the course was altered slightly and made more difficult. The new champ was lapping at 94mph

From our new position close to the chicane we were able to see lots of action. At one time seven outfits went through - each was literally nudging the outfit in front. It was fast and furious

In the Race of Champions riders Tim Reeves and Simon Neary were swapping the lead. Both riders were brilliant; at one time they both dived for a small gap - there was not much room. The next time around Tim had opened up a bit of a lead and, whilst riding one handed, lifted up his left hand and turned his wrist backwards to tell Simon to go faster!

Long shadows through the bus stop chicane.

In the vintage classic sidecars a local rider, Nick Weston riding a Triumph twin, was a character to watch. The engine was well put together, and it was given some stick. Nick, having negotiated the U turn, would dump the clutch upon which the front wheel would leave the ground. On one particularly flamboyant occasion the only wheel left on the ground was the rear one; still this saves on wear on the other tyres. Nick and passenger Billy came second in one of their races.

Also in this race was a Norton outfit powered by a Jawa speedway engine. Karl, the passenger, used to do speedway racing. There were several BSAs racing, together with eight Triumphs.

This vintage racing was very interesting to watch, particularly those machines using standard front fork. Sometimes the handlebars were flapping from side to side. The Royal Enfield's front wheel appeared to be popping up and down a couple of inches. The riders using leading links appeared to have an easier time around that corner.

There were also some three-wheeler cars, the majority being pre-war Morgans, in the thick of things, their large wire wheels flexing under the strain of negotiating the bends. A couple of Berkleys were also mixing in.

There was an interview with the new world champions, who seemed to be enjoying their success. However, an announcement came later in the day that the new champs have a problem in that their major sponsor was withdrawing their financial help. Tim and Tristan can be found on the website

A Norton rotary outfit evoked a lot of interest. The Formula 350 / Post Classic race was nicely under way, with Colin Rust and Phil Iremonger on the Norton holding fourth place, when the race got red flagged. When the race restarted the Norton got into the lead with several screaming 350s trying to get past.

BMW twin engine looks at home.

Not that you want to see these things, but at one time there were three ambulances on the track at the same time. It's nice to know that the back up is there if required

On the opposite side of Shaw's Corner the circuit owners have raised the spectator banking. This is just earth at the moment, but by next year it should be grassed and could be the best viewing spot on the track. Several people were standing here. Somebody brought along a trumpet which he started playing in the gap between the races. He was quite good and got several rounds of applause, and lots of arm-waving. One tune was well known and a sing-song got underway. The trumpeter may have been French as Mel thought he recognised their national anthem being played, and there were several French riders and their back up crews attending the meeting.

There were 21 outfits taking place in the vintage sidecar race and 24 runners in the classic sidecars and three wheeler race.

The Formula 2 class was heavily contested, with a total of seventy-six entries; these had to be divided into three heats, the quickest eight from each group to qualify for the A final, and B and C finals for those who did not make the A final.

Ken Williams was passenger here today riding with Allen Steele. Ken won the World title as Rolf Biland's passenger in 1978.

Note the leading link forks and the hydraulic steering damper

Mel and I had a great day - the racing was frantic, the weather was kind; it did not rain which is always a blessing when you are standing in a field! Mel has developed an interest in classic shows and steam rallies. He has a small collection of Raleigh mopeds which he takes along to display on these occasions.

There was a nice collection of road going outfits parked up opposite the start straight, including six Merlins, of which three were for sale. There were also several BSAs, Nortons and Triumph outfits.

A really nice day out - one for you to think about for this year.

As a bonus, as well as the sidecar meeting, there was also a moto-cross meeting being held here. It was a short walk between the two tracks so this gave you plenty to see.

Finally, another web site to look out for is


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