Portsmouth’s Quattro Plant JG Speedfit Kawasaki sidecar team made the 500 mile round trip to the iconic Le Mans circuit in Northern France for the first round of the World sidecar Championship. Held on the 2.7 mile Bugatti circuit the team were taking advantage of their new engine size of 600cc which enabled them to compete in the first round where all machines have to be 600cc powered.
After a mixed weekend at last weekend’s British Championship, Portsmouth driver Ricky Stevens and Dover based passenger Ryan Charlwood wanted to use Le Mans for further valuable track time on their new 600cc Kawasaki powered sidecar. It was also a great chance to compete at the highest level against the numerous World Champions racing there.
Both Ricky and Ryan have never raced at the circuit so they would have a very busy few days learning the track for the 18 lap Saturday lunch time race. Thursday evening’s free practice session saw them in a very solid sixth place. On Friday they would have two combined practice sessions which would determine the place on the grid for Saturday’s race. With two fourth places in the timed sessions, Ricky and Ryan again bettered their lap times and qualified fourth on the grid for the race.
This was a fantastic achievement considering this was only the second time they had competed on the new machine. To add to this only the reigning World Champions, the Birchall brothers, who were on pole position and multiple World Champion Tim Reeves in second with the 2015 Dutch World Champion Bennie Streuer in third being in front of them on the grid.
From the start of the race the Ricky and Ryan showed their intentions to run with the top five. They had obviously learned a vast amount over the previous few days and were battling for second place. On lap twelve while pushing Streuer they had to run straight on due to Streuer’s machine having a tyre issue which caused it to overturn right in front of them.
Thankfully Ricky and Ryan only lost some time and Streuer and his passenger were unhurt. Instead of fazing them they continued with their task and with no more incidents they took the chequered flag in fifth place. Reeves took the win followed by the Birchall’s with another multiple World Champion Pekka Paivarinta from Finland in third. Even John Holden who was in fourth place is a multiple British and Isle of Man TT Champion.
The pair were naturally delighted with the weekend’s performance. Ricky said “We have a very successful weekend on a track that we didn’t know. I’m very happy with our fitness over this amount of laps and how well the sidecar performed.” Added Ryan “It has been a great weekend and gives us a lot of confidence for the rest of the season.”
The pair are back in action over the May Bank Holiday weekend at the second round of the British Championship at Oulton Park in Cheshire.