The 2017 “FIM Sidecar World Championship” gets under way at the world famous 4,185km “Bugatti Circuit” at Le-Mans, France, over the Easter weekend. The World Sidecars will be supporting the famous “24 Houres Motos” for solo motorcycles.
New rules starting from 2017 means that all the top sidecar teams who were running 1000cc engines had to change to 600cc engines over the winter break. Some teams who ran 600cc engines in short tubular chassis last season have changed to the longer monocoque constructed chassis, but most have just had to change to the 600cc engine.
2016 champions, Pekka Paivarinta and Kirsi Kainulainen, have an all new chassis and have decided to have Honda power. They have not had very much testing over the winter, and very little during the spring months, so, Le-Mans will be their first real outing on their all new machine.
Bennie Streuer, 2015 World Champion driver, has had some good testing time with his machine. Like Paivarinta and Kainulainen, he has opted for Honda power. He also has a new passenger for the season, Frenchman; Kevin Rousseau will be joining “Team Streuer”. Rousseau is no stranger to sidecar racing, he was passenger to Sebastien Dellanoy last season, and they were to finish the 2016 season in third place.
Ben and Tom Birchall, 2009 World Champions, and 2016 “FIM Sidecar F2 World Trophy” champions, have moved from Honda power, to Yamaha. Last year saw them have a clean sweep in everything, for the F2 World Trophy class, pole positions, lap records, and race wins. The Brothers might have a slight advantage over the rest of the sidecar teams, having a full year racing the new format machines, but not all though.
Third place in last year’s F2 World Trophy class went to Michael Grabmuller and his partner Sophia Kirchhofer. They had a long chassis with Yamaha power. It was a learning year for the Austrian pair. If it had not been for some technical issues they could have been chasing for the title, and would have probably taken second in the Trophy class, but had to settle for third. They will be hoping not to have the same problems this year.
Second in last year’s F2 Trophy class was Gunther Bachmaier and Manfred Wechselberger. They ran a short chassis with Suzuki engines. At a recent test in France, they wheeled out a long chassis, still with Suzuki power. Their testing went well, and by the end of testing, their lap times were well down on when they started the test. They will be hoping to go one better place in the championship placings this year.
English driver John Holden will be pairing up with Mark Wilkes. Wilkes helped Holden out for one round of the World Championship last year. They had some good racing in Oschersleben. Holden and Wilkes will be racing with Kawasaki engines. They have done some testing in the spring with success. They will be hoping for good results, and hope to be fighting for the championship.
Another team new to the new rules is Scott Lawrie and Ben Hughes. Lawrie has had some time out of racing, and his passenger Hughes will be a rookie in the championship. They have a new chassis and will be powered by Suzuki engines. Driver Lawrie could have other things on his mind in Le-Mans though, his partner Martina is expecting their first child, and it just so happens it is due this weekend..
French interest in Le-Mans will be with Francois Leblond and Bruno Picquoin they will have a shrt tubular “Shelbourne” chassis with Suzuki power. The all-female team of Estelle Leblond and Melanie Farnier will be hoping for success at their home track. Also, Franck Barbier and Goulven Crochemore. These three teams know the Le-Mans circuit well and will be hoping to upset the regular championship teams with good results.
There is a possibility that Slovenian driver Janez Remse and his passenger Robbie Shorter from New Zealand will not make the first round in Le-Mans. Remse has had some time out of racing, but hoping to have a good season with a new chassis with Yamaha engines.
Thursday, 13th there will be a free practice session.
There will be two qualifying sessions on the Friday. Saturday at 11:05 local time, the start of the 18 lap race.