It was back to business as usual for Team Castrol Suzuki sidecar duo Steve Webster and passenger Paul Woodhead at Vallelunga, Italy, when they won the opening round of the 2004 UEM European sidecar championship.
Webbo blasted his GSXR1000 powered outfit away from pole position to win the 20-lap race run in baking hot 28-degree heat. With a winning margin of 2.886 seconds, Webster had been pressed hard in the early stages before he had made his move clear of the pack.
But Team M&M's pair Tim and Tristan Reeves were out to make it tough for Webbo from the off, when they snatched the lead on the second lap. Behind him in third the Halton Fabrications Windle Yamaha of Tom Hanks and Phil Biggs were chasing, and on the fifth lap relegated Webster to third place. For five laps Webbo was happy to watch and wait, before retaking second from Hanks at half race distance. He needed two laps to reel in Reeves, and with eight laps to go on the board took the race lead, and built it up to a near three-second margin at the flag.
"We got a good start but the Reeves brothers got past us on the second lap, and about three laps later Hanks got through. Realising it was so hot, and the track was really abrasive, I sat with them for a couple of laps before we made a move for it" explained Webster.
"It was a tough race- very hot - and very hard on the tyres. I think what was crucial was that we managed to save ours a bit better than the others for the last few laps though. "
"But it's a great start to the season, and the new bike is an absolute flyer," said Webster who was giving his new 2004-spec GSXR1000 Suzuki engine, cradled in a Louis Christen Racing (LCR) chassis, it's first real test of the year. At an overall 6kg lighter than his last season's machine - now raced by yesterday's third finishers Tim and Tristan Reeves, Webster was highly delighted with the outfit's performance, and the noticeable speed improvement given by the revised engine and electronic managements systems.
Straight after the race, the team re-race-prepped the machine before setting out for the long drive to Dublin next weekend. "We'll have just one day at home before setting off for Ireland, but the bike is now track ready for the British Championship meeting at Mondello Park next Sunday" said a tired but happy Webster.
- 1). Steve Webster/Paul Woodhead (GB) - LCR Suzuki: 27 min 34.373secs
- 2). Tom Hanks/Phil Biggs (GB) - Windle Yamaha: 27 min 37.259
- 3). Tim Reeves/Tristan Reeves (GB) - LCR Suzuki: 27 min 38.235
- 4). Martien Van Gils/Tonny Van Gils (NL) - LCR Suzuki: 27min 40.855
- 5). Billy Galross/Peter Berglund (SWE) - LCR Suzuki: 28 min 24.551
Fastest lap: Webster, 1 min 21.159
Pole: Webster, 1min 20.285
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