After three rounds of the 2004 Eastern Airways British Sidecar Championship, Team Castrol Suzuki duo Steve Webster and passenger Paul Woodhead have carved out a 34-point lead, after two superb wins at a sun-baked Silverstone at the weekend.
The first 12 lap race of the two-leg round was held on Saturday afternoon, and with top challengers Tim Reeves and Jorg Steinhausen both retiring early in the proceedings with machinery problems, the race win and the 25 point haul was virtually gifted to Webster and Woodhead:
"Jorg was out with electrical problems on the first lap, so it looked like it was going to a tough race with Reeves, but then he retired, so we were out on our own and it was simply a matter of staying out in front and clear of the battle for second place." said Webster.
The winning margin was just over 4.5 seconds on front of TT-returnee Greg Lambert, who rode a blinder to rob ex-GP star Derek Brindley of the runner up spot on the very last lap.
For leg two, on Sunday, and with his gremlins fixed, Jorg Steinhausen and passenger Trevor Hopkinson set a blistering pace, forcing Webster to chase. Spurred on by the pace and challenging presence of his main rival from last year's World Championship, Webster and his Suzuki GSXR1000-powered outfit performed magnificently as he forged the victory:
"Sunday's race was much tougher with Jorg going really hard. He was fast away and I knew he was trying to pull out a quick lead, but we stayed with him. When we managed to squeeze past him the second time I realised we had better try to build a safe gap, so we really went for it, and managed to build a bit of a margin, but it was a hard-fought race." said Webster, who was pushed so hard that he knocked a second of his own 2003 lap record time.
Webster also revealed a potential problem that could have robbed him of the spoils:
"During the race the tyres "pick up" rubber from the track, and the front had built up so much that it went badly out of balance. I had a big problem with vibration - it was real handful and I could hardly hold on to it on the last lap, but we got what we wanted - two wins - and it's been a great weekend"
The Team Castrol Suzuki star's 2004 season ambitions were also given a boost with news from the 2004 UEM European series at Rijeka in Croatia. With the British Championship and the UEM championship dates clashing, Webster had elected to race the Team Castrol Suzuki ensemble in the domestic series, leaving the way open for Tom Hanks and Phil Biggs to overhaul Webster's 14-point lead in the UEM series. But faced with 70 mph winds almost ripping the awnings from team trucks in the paddock, the organisers deemed it too dangerous to race, so Webster's lead is left untouched:
"We're lucky really, with it being called off - it's a long trip down to Rijeka to not race, but it's happened to us a couple of times as well over the years. We once went all the way Australia only to get rained off on the day, so I know how cheesed off they'll all be, but from our team's point of view I can't help feeling pleased that we're still leading that championship as well" said a happy Webster.
The next round of the British series will be virtually a home-for-tea meeting for Webbo - the venue is Croft, near Darlington, just 30 miles up the road from his Easingwold base, and it gives Webbo's legion of local North Yorkshire fans a very rare chance to see him in action on almost-home ground. That's on June 27th, but before that Webbo and Woody take their Team Castrol Suzuki GSXR outfit away to the Nurburgring in Germany for a one-off appearance in next Sunday's German Championship. No doubt friendly rivals Jorg Steinhausen and Trevor Hopkinson may feel they'll have a score to even up.
Eastern Airways Sidecar Championship, Round 3 (12 laps 37.56 miles):
- 1 Steve Webster (Suzuki) 24m 39.026s
- 2 Greg Lambert (Suzuki) 24m 43.600s
- 3 Derek Brindley (Suzuki) 24m 44.144s
- 4 Bill Philp (Yamaha) 25m 02.375s
- 5 Richard Gatt (Suzuki) 25m 05.351s
- 6 Bryan Pedder (Suzuki) 25m 09.363s
- 7 Stuart Muldoon (Suzuki) 25m 25.325s
- 8 Stuart Woodard (Yamaha) 25m 33.458s
- 9 Chris Founds (Yamaha) 25m 34.774s
- 10 Andy Laidlow (Suzuki) 26m 34.654s
Race 2 (12 laps 37.56 miles):
- 1 Steve Webster (Suzuki) 24m 00.860s
- 2 Jorg Steinhausen (Suzuki) 24m 06.547s
- 3 Tim Reeves (Suzuki) 24m 07.706s
- 4 Derek Brindley (Suzuki) 24m 31.763s
- 5 Greg Lambert (Suzuki) 24m 38.946s
- 6 Richard Gatt(Suzuki) 24m 46.242s
- 7 Bill Philp (Yamaha) 25m 01.186s
- 8 Bryan Pedder(Suzuki) 25m 02.276s
- 9 Stuart Woodard (Yamaha) 25m 07.459s
- 10 Chris Founds (Yamaha) 25m 23.338s.
2004 Eastern Airways British Championship points after three rounds:
- 1, Webster 95
- 2, Brindley and Reeves 61
- 4, Lambert 57
- 5, Philp 43
- 6, Gatt 32
- 7, Pedder 28
- 8, Woodard 22
- 9, Founds 21
- 10, Steinhausen 20
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