Round 3 of the Superside FIM Sidecar World Championship takes place at the Nurburgring in Germany this weekend.
Tim & Tristan Reeves arrive at the famous venue in the Eifel region with a healthy 29 point lead in the World Championship on their Team Roberts Racing LCR-Suzuki following their win in the dramatic, heat affected race at Hungaroring last time.
Local favourite Jörg Steinhausen and adopted German passenger Trevor Hopkinson currently lie second in the series, but have been unhappy with their performances so far this year - despite 3 podiums and a 4th position from the four races so far. The Steinhausen Racing team have been struggling with a lack of power from their Suzuki engine, and in trying to make up for this in Hungaroring the German wore out his tyres by half distance and slipped back behind the machines of Roscher and van Gils.
On his home circuit Steinhausen will be hoping that his new engine will be more than a match for Reeves and Webster.
Steve Webster & Paul Woodhead occupy third position - 40 points adrift of Reeves - after mixed fortunes in the opening events. At Brands Hatch they won the first two races before suffering and engine failure in race three. Then while leading the race in Hungary, the pair were forced to pull out of the race when Woodhead was overcome by a combination of the excessive heat, and exhaust fumes coming from the Castrol Suzuki.
"We'd tried something different in the engine at Hungary" said Webster "But unfortunately it meant that the motor was burning a little bit of oil, and smoking on the overrun".
"I couldn't understand why I'd not been feeling well Saturday night, and getting headaches. Then in the race, everything was fine, until all of a sudden I started to feel dizzy." Woodhead explained "When we checked the machine back at home, the whole of the right side was covered in a light film of oil, which was also on my Kevlar suit" he went on "So I guess every right-hander I was being gassed!"
After their superb second position in Hungary the German/Swiss pair of Mike Roscher & Adolf Hänni jumped up to 4th position in the standings and they will be looking to repeat their podium here on a circuit they know well.
Level on points with Roscher & Hänni are the young British pair of Dan Morrissey & Rob Biggs on the Team Advan Excalibur LCR-Suzuki. They have had a great start to the year and will be looking for a top 6 finish this weekend.
Qualifying takes place Friday and Saturday, with the 23 lap race at Midday on Sunday.
With overcast conditions and a cool track temperature of just 27 degrees (compared to those in Hungary of 55 degrees), Tim & Tristan Reeves were immediately on the pace setting a 1m 33s time to head the timesheets right at the beginning of the session.
But once the session heated up it was the Castrol Suzuki duo of Webster & Woodhead who stormed to the top with a time of 1.31.3s, just half a second shy of the lap record.
Then it was the turn of Jörg Steinhausen & Trevor Hopkinson to challenge, as they moved into second position ahead of Reeves.
"We are now carrying 20kg extra weight due to the 'success ballast' rule. 10kg in Hungary wasn't too bad, but this extra 10kg we got after winning at Hungary is really effecting the handling" said a disgruntled Tim. "Every lap feels like the first lap on new tyres and a full tank of fuel!.....not nice".
But despite the extra 20kg, Reeves fought back and ousted Steinhausen from second, only to be piped in the closing moments when the German recorded a 1.32.3s.
Tero Manninen - who got married just 3 days ago in his native Finland to long time girlfriend Sari - was quickly into the groove setting the fourth fastest time early on. "We have fitted some new tyres for this session and they must be working well" said the Finn "Or maybe married men drive faster!" he added with a smile. Manninen would remain fourth until the last 5 minutes, when Mike Roscher & Adolf Hänni put together a quick lap and moved ahead.
Behind Manninen and passenger Pekka Kuismanen, the battle raged between the usual suspects. In fact 5th to 12th positions were separated by less than 1 second, with Martien & tonnie van Gils in 6th position and Bill Philp & Rick Long on the 155 Media machine in 12th position.
Wildcard, and World Championship debutant Colin Nicholson, the Dutch based Englishman didn't disgrace himself with a provisional 22nd position.
"I should have made the step up to the World Championship years ago" said the 55 year old RCN Chassis builder, who in the early 80's was a top UK National runner capable of mixing it with the likes of Jock Taylor, Derek Bayley and Mick Boddice on the British tracks. "But now I'm approaching the FIM age limit this is my last chance to have a go - so I thought, why not? At least I can say I've done a World Championship round when I'm in my rocking chair".
"Awful!" was the joint quote from Richard Gatt & Paul Randall on their performance. "We changed the ignition settings after Gatty was moaning his feet were getting hot - the wimp!" said Randall "But the changes made the engine run like a sack of s**t! We will revert to the old settings for tomorrow's session - and he'll have to put some more heat shield on his boots or something and then get his finger out".
Tomorrow's session will be at Midday to finalise the starting grid for Sunday's race.
- 1st - 1, Steve Webster/Paul Woodhead (GBR) LCR-Suzuki, Team Castrol 1.31.379
- 2nd - 22, Jörg Steinhausen/Trevor Hopkinson (GER/GBR) LCR-Suzuki, Team Steinhausen
After yesterday's cool conditions the sun was out for Saturday's second and final qualifying session for round three of the Superside FIM Sidecar World Championship. Track temperatures rose to 42 degrees.
Steve Webster & Paul Woodhead completed just a handful of laps on their Castrol Suzuki, confident that their overnight pole position time would not be bettered. "We kept an eye on the monitors, just in case they got closer, but we thought we had done enough to stay on pole" said Woody.
It was the battle for second position that kept everybody intrigued. The Steinhausen racing pairing of Jörg Steinhausen & Trevor Hopkinson were second overnight, but Championship leaders Tim & Tristan Reeves were in determined mood, and within 5 minutes had moved their Team Roberts Racing LCR-Suzuki a tenth of a second ahead of their German rival.
Steinhausen responded immediately to once again move behind Webster, but it was only to last 10 minutes as the Reeves brothers went back out and produced a stunning time to close to with 2 tenths of a second of the Castrol pair's pole time.
Try as he would, Steini could not better his time, and ended the session 3rd fastest - still an important front row start for tomorrow's race.
The German/Swiss pair of Mike Roscher & Adolf Hänni maintained their 4th position on the Hänni Racing Team LCR-Suzuki, ensuring the top four positions mirrored that of Round 2 in Hungary.
Andy Laidlow & Patrick Farrance found some more time, and moved up from 7th to 5th position. "I'm getting better at qualifying" said Laidlow afterwards "I've fitted an onboard lap timer display so I can now gauge how we are getting on - and it seems to be working". The former Scottish Championship will start from the second row of the grid in only his 3rd World Championship event.
Bill Philp & Rick Long were the biggest improvers in the session, jumping from 12th to 6th position on the 155 Media Race Team LCR-Yamaha R1. "Lee, our team manager, told us we couldn't have any dinner unless we got to 6th position! I looked around and saw Rick mouthing the word food - so I thought we had better go for it" joked the ever smiling Philp, who just beat an impressive Jos Moser & Ueli Wafler. The Austrian/Swiss Wild-Card team using their circuit knowledge from the German championship races to good effect.
Bernd Grabmüller was an early casualty, falling from the side of the Gemini Racing LCR-Yamaha at the slow turn 2. He was quickly to his feet and back onboard joining his brother Michael, but the young Austrians decided to return to the pits and will start from 19th position.