The Team Castrol Suzuk pairing of - newly honoured Freeman of York - Steve Webster MBE, and passenger Paul Woodhead get their 2004 European Championship campaign underway this weekend in Italy. The venue is the 3.222km Vallelunga, circuit just 30km from Rome.
Sunday's race will be the opener of the seven race series that takes in visits to Hungary, Croatia, Czech Republic, Sweden, Holland, Germany, and Spain en-route.
"Even after racing around Europe for over 20 years, we can still find new places to go!" said Webster, reflecting on his first visit to the Italian circuit.
Passenger Paul Woodhead may be able to offer some tips though:
"I've never been there, but Paul raced there a few years back before he started with me. He's told me it's a bit tight and twisty - not unlike Cadwell Park. I'm sure he'll be able to shed further light on the drive down there, but we go there having to learn it and then work out a set-up for the gearing, tyres and suspension. It's the same for the others of course, and we've got a practice session on Friday, and two on Saturday to get up to race speed." explained Webster.
With no World Championship this year, Webster is keen to support this new series:
"The sport needs a premier title, and this is the one for this year. Even though we're also doing all the British Championship rounds, we're going to do as many of this series as possible even though there are date clashes. I think it's very important that we support these championships while our sport is in this position, and it'll help those that are negotiating for the return of World Championship racing next year to see that the commitment is there".
Sunday's race will be run over twenty laps, and sees the beginning of a very busy period for the Team Castrol Suzuki duo. Next weekend they are at Mondello Park in Ireland, and the following weekend will be sailing back over the channel to Hungary: "We've got a few thousand motorway miles to do in the next three weeks - it's going to be very hectic, but then we've got a bit of a breather for a couple of weeks." Said Webster, "but after all the hassles we've had over the winter, it's going to be great to get out on the track and really blow the cobwebs out"
Whilst Webbo' traditional rivals Klaus Klaffenbock and Jorg Steinhausen are not entering this round of the championship, World Championship rostrum regulars Tom Hanks and Phil Biggs are. Always fast, they will present Webster and Woodhead with their main challenge, but a good showing is also expected from the Team M&M pair of brothers Tim and Tristan Reeves. The joker card they possess is that they are using Webster's 2003 World Championship winning LCR Suzuki outfit, purchased from the track at the final round in Magny Cours last year.
Webbo and Woody's season:
British Sidecar Champions dates:
May 21-23 Mondello (BSB), June 10-13 Silverstone (WSB), Jun 26-27 Croft (Nat), July 2-4 Knockhill (BSB), July 29-Aug 1 Brands (WSB), Aug 28-30 Cadwell (BSB), Sept 2-5 Assen (WSB), Sept 25-26 Castle Combe (Int), Oct 2-3 Knockhill (Nat) and Oct 17 Mallory Festival of Sidecars.
UEM Sidecar Championship dates are as follows:
May 15th Vallelunga Italy; May 29th Hungaroring Hungary; July 10th Most, CZ; August 7th Anderstorp Sweden; Sept 5th Assen Holland; Sept 19th Schleiz Germany; October 9th Cartagena Spain.
June 20th Nurburgring Germany (German championship)
Keep up to date over this weekend at www.sidecar.org
This article was kindly provided by John McKenzie