Reeves and Wilkes have one hand on the title!
The sixth 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. A big change at the circuit for this year, the track has been resurfaced. Over the years the track surface was known to be so grippy, that even slick tyres would be used in wet conditions. It will be interesting to see how the sidecar teams get on with the new surface, and if they like the new surface.
Tim Reeves and Mark Wilkes will be heading to Croatia with a 51 point lead over the second place team of Ben and Tom Birchall, who are only one point ahead of third in the championship Pekka Paivarinta and Jussi Veravainen. These three teams have been battling throughout the season for top honours. At times it has been hard battling, but that is racing and the teams have enjoyed the battles.
Reeves and Wilkes are not taking their large points lead for granted, with two races in Croatia anything could happen. In Assen, the team hit some problems with their machine, a slight misfire cost the team valuable time, which left them starting albeit still on the front row of the grid, but in third spot. They won in Assen, but it was a hard fought battle. However it will be nice going to Croatia with this lead in the championship. Reeves has had a lot of success in Croatia in past years, he and Wilkes could come away from Croatia as the 2018 champions, but he knows that the next two placed teams are hungry for the wins too.
Ben and Tom Birchall, second in the championship with 120 points will be going all out to make life hard for Reeves and Wilkes. Last time out in Assen, Ben and Tom topped all the times in qualifying, and it looked like they were on for a race win too, albeit a hard fought race between themselves and Reeves/Wilkes. But once again, gremlins hit the team. Their machine had problems which let Reeves/Wilkes and Paivarinta/Veravainen pass leaving them down in third place, however they were able to get back up to full speed again and by the end of the race they crossed the line on the tail of Paivarinta/Veravainan. However with only one point separating the Birchall Brothers and Paivarinta and Veravainen, these two teams will be fighting for their own championship placing, this could work in favour for Reeves and Wilkes.
Pekka Paivarinta and Jussi Veravainen will be arriving in Croatia with only one thing in mind, second place in the championship, or even better, first. But this looks like it will be very hard for the team. Arriving in Assen, Paivarinta and Veravainen had 36 points docked from their title hopes for an infringement at the “Sachsenring” Germany, this was for the use of a non-regulation fuel. Before this, the team were sitting second in the championship and only 11 points adrift of Reeves and Wilkes. A costly mistake by the team.
Fourth in the championship with 90 points, and a fourth place last time in Assen. Bennie Streuer and Kevin Rousseau will be hoping for good results in Croatia. They were hoping for a podium place in Assen but it was not to be. However fourth was a great result considering the team had been upside down the day before the race in Assen. Both Streuer and Rousseau are frustrated how the season has turned out for them. At the beginning they were fighting for race wins, but as the season has progressed this fighting at the front for race wins is not happening for the team. So a good weekend in Croatia will boost the team’s moral no end.
Next up in fifth place is Sam and Adam Christie with 76 points. What a first season in the championship for the Christie Brothers. They have worked hard and been steady away. But they have also been fast in qualifying and have had some great battles throughout the season so far, resulting in good results. They will hope that this will continue in Croatia.
Lying in sixth place in the championship, and only eight points down on the Christie Brothers is Janez Remse and Eamon Mulholland. Remse will be looking forward to coming to Croatia. This will be his local GP. He knows this place like the back of his hand, however, will he like the new resurfaced circuit, we will see. There will be a big change in the team for the rest of the season. Irishman, Mulholland will not passenger Remse for the rest of the 2018 season. Austrian passenger Manfred Wechselberger will see out the rest of the season with the team.
Two teams with 55 points apiece, are Lewis Blackstock and Patrick Rosney, the other is Lukas Wyssen and Thomas Hofer, these teams have been going well this season, however, Blackstock and Rosney missed out on a good point’s opportunity, they due to other commitments had to miss out at the “Slovakia Ring”, and last time out in Assen they hit gear change problems, missing out on a certain sixth place. Wyssen and Hofer were another team who had their points deducted after a fuel infringement at the “Sachsenring”. These two teams will be going all out to claw back as many points as they can in Croatia.
Peter Kimeswenger and Jens Lehnertz are only five points down on Blackstock/Rosney and Wyssen/Hofer. The team have worked away steadily throughout the season. They have had their problems, but they have managed to work round them and stayed positive throughout. Again, Kimeswenger and Lehnerts will know this track well and will hope they don’t have any problems to work round.
Lying in tenth place is Alan Founds and Tom Christie. They have had a very up and down season. On the podium in the “Slovakia Ring” then to have their machine burn out in the “Pannonia Ring”. Last time out in Assen, they had to pull out for a DNF. Passenger Tom Christie had injuries from accidents in his domestic championship in Britain, he did a sterling job in Assen, but during the race, the injuries were just too much for him. There is a possibility that the team will not make it to Croatia, due to Tom’s injuries, but hopefully they will manage to be at the last round in Oschersleben.
So, here we go, let’s hope the weather is once again kind to the sidecar teams in Croatia. Let’s hope the teams like the new resurfaced circuit, and let’s hope for a great weekend’s racing. There will be two races over the weekend, so there are a lot of points to be had for the championship.