The 2016 FIM World Sidecar Championship will consist of nine races held at six of the fastest race circuits in the world. Round one will be held at the famous 4.273 km “Bugatti Circuit” at Le Mans, France. There will be an 18 lap race on Saturday 9 April, starting at 11.30am local time.
A full grid of 27 sidecars has been entered for round one. This year there will be two classes of sidecar on the grid, but racing for two different championships. The “FIM Sidecar World Championship” is for 1000cc powered machines, fitted in a monocoque chassis. This will be the last year that 1000cc engines will be permitted to race in the championship under new rules implemented by the FIM for 2017.
The top three teams from the 2015 season will be battling hard for the title. The 2015 title winners Bennie Streuer and Geert Koerts have a new LCR chassis, but have kept their trusted Suzuki 1000cc engines. Winter testing for the team went well and they hope to get their season off to a good start with a win in Le Mans. Tim Reeves and Gregory Cluze will be hoping to go one better this year. They fought hard last year, but the Anglo-French pairing could only finish second to the Dutch duo of Streuer and Koerts. Reeves and Cluze have a new venture for this season. They will be racing under the “Remse Racing” banner, with the all new Yamaha “Big Bang” 1000cc engines. Third in the championship last year were the “Flying Finns” Pekka Paivarinta and Kirsi Kainulainen. Winter testing has gone well for the team. They have had some help with their BMW 1000cc engine and the results have been good, letting the pair concentrate on handling and the braking setup. The pair will be looking for a great start to the championship and will be going all out for a win. Passenger Kainulainen made history last year as the first female competitor to be presented with a World Championship medal for third place. The team will be looking for the top medals in 2016.
The French team of Sebastien Delannoy and Kevin Rousseau will be back racing here at Le Mans; they have had a good start to their domestic championship, with two wins already here at Le Mans. They will certainly want to give the French fans something to cheer for.
The Swiss pairing of Markus Schlosser and Thomas Hofer were hoping that they could get a good start to their season, but passenger Hofer sustained an injury to his leg just days before the team were due to attend a pre season test. Hofer did some testing, but had to sit out much of the time. Team owner and driver Schlosser hopes that Hofer will be able to compete in Le Mans as will be too late to recruit a top class passenger for the opening race.
Another Swiss team hoping to have a good race here in Le Mans is duo Lukas Wyssen and Olivier Chabloz. The young team had a good testing session in Val de Vienne, France, earlier in the year, despite having an off on the final day of testing. The testing paid dividends for the team, as they stood on the podium at the first round of the French Championship at Le Mans, just two weeks ago.
Joining the 1000cc machines on the grid this year will be the smaller 600cc engine machines. This championship will be known as the “FIM F2 Sidecar World Trophy”. The chassis of these machines can be either of monocoque or tubular construction. In the world of sidecar racing, the monocoque chassis is known as a “long chassis” and the tubular chassis known as the “short chassis”. The championship had been raced in the last two years, but over a two race format. It was won twice by Tim Reeves, once with Gregory Cluze passengering, and once with Patrick Farrance in the chair.
Ben and Tom Birchall showed their pace last year with the smaller 600cc engine in the long monocoque chassis. They must be one of the favourites for the title in 2016. However the fast pairing of Michael Grabmuller and Sophia Kirchhofer from Austria have gone down the same route as the Birchall brothers by putting a 600cc engine in a long chassis. They had a good test over the winter, and seem to think that the machine handles really well on left hand corners. They will be going all out for a good season and hoping to take the title.
Isle of Man TT legend Dave Molyneux, with Dan Sayle for passenger, will be hoping to show what a short tubular chassis can do against the long monocoque chassis. Molyneux makes his own chassis, and with Suzuki 600cc engines fitted it will be interesting to see how it fairs against the long bikes.
The German pairing of Eckart Rosinger and Steffen Werner will be racing a short “Baker” chassis with Suzuki engines. Driver Rosinger, who is a great supporter of the 600cc class, has been waiting a long time for the opportunity to race in the world championship, and the team will be hoping for a good result in Le Mans.
In previous years at Le Mans the massive crowd assembled for the start of the sidecar race and certainly got a good show from the three-wheel brigade. This year will be no different, and it remains to hope that the weather will be kind over the weekend.