FIM World Sidecar Championship
Grobnik, Rijeka, Croatia
The fifth and final round of the FIM Sidecar World Championship will take place at the 4.168km circuit of Grobnik in Croatia, just south of Rijeka, just inland from the Adriatic Coast. The anti-clockwise circuit is surrounded with mountains with stunning views all round. The “Automotodrom Grobnik”circuit opened in 1978 and until 1990 the Yugoslavian motorcycle GP was held here. In the past this round of the FIM Sidecar World Championship has taken place in the month of June, which has been hard on man and machine due to high temperatures. Work on the track surface was due to be undertaken. However this work did not happen, resulting in the later than usual event taking place in September.
The 2017 season so far has been dominated by The British team of Ben and Tom Birchall, they top the tables with a clean sweep so far with a maximum 150 points. They would also have had a full house, pole position, lap records and fastest lap times; however the “Flying Finns” Pekka Paivarinta and Kirsi Kainulainen came out in Assen and were credited with the fastest lap time of the race. Paivarinta and Kainulainen have been getting faster as the season has progressed. With two races here in Croatia, Paivarinta and Kainulainen would love to conclude the 2017 season with a win. Although there is 30 points of a difference between the two teams, as all teams know, anything can happen. The Birchall Brothers preparation of their machine is second to none, they will be checking and double checking, they will not be wanting any machine problems at this the last round of the championship. If Brothers Ben and Tom finish the first race in front of Paivarinta and Kainulainen they will take the title.
With the top two teams way out in front, third place in the championship could not be closer. Only one point separates 2015 champion Bennie Streuer with French passenger Kevin Rousseau from fourth place team of John Holden and Mark Wilkes. These two teams have been battling it out all through the season. However it has been Holden and Wilkes who have been on the podium consistently during the 2017 season. Both these teams have had their ups and downs in the championship so far. Holden and Wilkes had a DNF at the first round in Le-Mans. Rousseau, passenger to Bennie Streuer missed out in Oschersleben due to a broken arm, but Streuer raced with his partner Ilse De-Hass, and that was a great fourth place for the team, but could it have been a third place? Streuer slowed during race one due to oil on track, which had been dropped unknowingly by Holden and Wilkes who took the third and final podium spot.
Fifth place in the championship so far is Michael Grabmuller and Sebastien Lavorel. With the announcement at the beginning of the season that long term passenger to Grabmuller, Sophia Kirchhofer would be hanging up her leathers. In stepped, French man Sebastien Lavorel. The team has gelled well. With consistent finishes in the top five. With things looking good for the team to finish the championship in this position, they will have to be on top form in Croatia, because the “Rookie” team of Lewis Blackstock and Patrick Rosney are only twelve points adrift of Grabmuller and Lavorel. With two races in Croatia there is a chance that Blackstock and Rosney could overhaul Grabmuller and Lavorel. Also, Blackstock and Rosney have moved onto a new long LCR chassis from their short chassis LCR. Assen was the first time on the chassis for the young team so they will still be getting used to it, but the team has done some home domestic races with good success.
In seventh place is Scotsman Scott Lawrie, he has had three passengers this year. Last time out at Assen, Calum Lawson was in the chair. Lawson had been away from racing for a while, so it took him a bit of time to get back into the swing of things. But a good race and a reasonable result for the team was good. Also Lawson was “buzzing” after the race. He can’t wait till Croatia, and Lawrie likes, and goes well at the Grobnik circuit. If the pair have a good weekend, they could upset some of the front runners, and take good points from them.
Eighth through to eleventh in the championship is covered by only 2 points. Heading this battle is Peter Kimeswenger and Jens Lehnertz, the team have been working away steadily throughout the season. Last time out in Assen they had a great battle with wild card entry Brian Gray and Jason Pitt throughout the race. Only one point back is Gunther Bachmaier and Manfred Wechselberger. They had a disaster in Le-Mans, with a big crash. Passenger Wechselberger came off worse with broken bones, but driver Bachmair just has not got his form 100 percent back, maybe with lots of track time in Grobnik this will be back.
With equal points as Bachmair and Wechselberger, are Janez Remse and Robbie Shorter. Remse regards Grobnik as his local track although he comes from Slovenia. Remse with Shorter from New Zealand, missed out on the first round in Le-Mans, their new ARS chassis with Yamaha engine was not completely finished. Then in Assen last time they found a problem with the front of their machine, leaving them sitting the race out. They will be hoping two good results here will lift them up the championship table.
Next up is Jakob Rutz and Marcel Fries. They were not present in Assen, and the talk in the paddock was that he has stopped racing in the world championship. We will see in Croatia.
The all-female French team of Estelle Leblond and Melanie Farnier are sitting in twelfth place in the championship. They contested the first two rounds but none since due to other race commitments.
Next in thirteenth place are Tony Baker and Fiona Baker- Holden they have been having a battle with the fourteenth place team of Eckart Rosinger and Steffen Werner all season. It is like a battle of the short chassis machines within the championship. This meeting in Croatia will be for sure a good battle between these two teams.
There will be two races in Croatia.