After the winter break the first round of the 2019 FIM Sidecar World Championship is finally here and will take place at the world famous Bugatti Circuit at Le Mans, France on the 20 April. The Sidecars will be supporting the famous 24 Heures Motos for solo motorcycles.
Overall there will be six rounds with ten races, at some of the best circuits in the world. There will be a new circuit for the sidecars too, as they visit Navarra in Spain for the first time. The 2018 season saw some of the closest racing in the championship for many years. This year we will see even more top teams battle it out with the prospect of plenty more action and drama throughout the campaign.
Most of the sidecar teams have done all their winter testing, some with snow at the side of the track. This was the case for the second placed team last year, Pekka Päivärinta and Jussi Veräväinen. The ‘flying Finns’ will be pushing for the title. They have switched to Yamaha power for 2019, after having used Honda engines last season.
After a year away from the championship, Tim Reeves and Mark Wilkes came back last year. They fought all the way until the end, despite mechanical misfortunes hampering their title hope. Reeves and Wilkes are not on the permanent team list, although they will be in Le-Mans and they will be trying to replicate their win from last year.
But, these two teams, and all the other teams will have to be on top form, because Ben and Tom Birchall, will not want to hand over their 2018 title to anyone. They will be going for three in a row. Last year was looking like a disaster for the Birchall Brothers. They too had mechanical problems, halfway through the championship driver Ben said, “The championship is lost this year”, but how wrong he was. The brothers fought hard, and they lifted the 2018 title to make it two in a row.
Bennie Streuer, 2015 FIM World Champion, and Kevin Rousseau stay with Kawasaki engines for this year. Streuer and Rousseau had podium placings and some great battles with the top three teams last year. Frenchman, Rousseau will be looking for a top result here at Le-Mans, his home GP and his home town and not for a repeat of last year when a rear tyre blowout saw the team upside-down, thankfully without injury.
2018 proved to be a good year for the Christie brothers, Sam and Adam. They arrived in Le Mans twelve months ago as the rookies. However, they worked hard throughout the season and were rewarded with fifth place in the championship, a position they will look to improve on in 2019.
Janez Remse had a steady early part to the season last year with Irish passenger Eamon Mulholland. However, Remse had a change of passenger for the last few rounds of the championship. This year sees Remse partnered again with Manfred Wechselberger. The team will be hoping for a good result in Le Mans to get their 2019 campaign off to a good start.
Lukas Wyssen and Thomas Hofer had some good battles last season, though tended to fade as the races wore on. This was to improve towards the end of the year and to finish in seventh place in the championship was a good result for the team. After some strong Winter testing they will be hoping to climb the order.
Peter Kimeswenger and Jens Lehnertz ended 2018 eighth in the series after technical issues restricted their efforts, with these gremlins now behind them they will be looking for more success this year.
2019 will see the return of Swiss driver Markus Schlosser. Schlosser has contested the World Championship previously and is renowned for his smooth and fast driving. In past years, Schlosser has challenged for the title, however never managed to take the gold medal. This season he has a new passenger, the experienced Marcel Fries. The pair will be hoping to again challenge for the title.
The German pairing of Joseph Sattler and Neubert Uwe will be joining the championship this year. They will be racing their Adolf RS chassis with Kawasaki power. Sattler and Uwe have a wealth of experience racing both F2 and F1 sidecars and have competed in a variety of championships. They will relish the atmosphere in Le Mans with the thousands of spectators at the race.
Young French team, Paul Leglise and Emmanuelle Clement will be hoping for a good result here at their home GP. Whatever the outcome this will be the pairing’s first World championship race together.
The Dutch pairing of Kees Endeveld and Jeroen Remme will be all fired up for the first race here in France. Endeveld has won the Dutch championship in the past as a passenger, and won the Sidecar Trophy championship as a driver, with him then was Remme. Winter testing has gone well for the pair, so they are eager to get racing.
The British team of Rupert Archer and Steve Thomas sees more newcomers join the series. Archer and Thomas have raced in their domestic British sidecar championship for a number of years now. Archer took some time out from racing a few years ago, but the lure of sidecar racing has him back. Passenger Thomas has raced both F2 and F1 sidecars and has a wealth of experience.
Another French team contesting the championship this year is Philippe Le Bail and Serge Leveau. Le Bail will be looking for a good result here at Le Mans. The team have been regulars in the championship over the years, albeit as wild card entrants. Le Bail will be geeing up the massive spectator attendance to help the team get a good result.
Thursday 18 April will open with free practice, before two qualifying sessions on Friday.
Saturday 19 April at noon will see the start of the eighteen lap race.