After what seems to have been a long winter, the wait is over. Next weekend (14-17 April) the Brands Hatch Indy circuit will resonate to the sound of the strongest entry of sidecars in the history of the series. New rules which allow 600cc outfits to compete on level terms with their 1000cc big brothers have proved to be an outstanding success and have attracted unprecedented levels of pre-season registrations.
Further rule changes include a “reverse grid” mechanism which will see the top ten finishers, regardless of capacity, line up for race two in reverse order.
Add to this the fact that the Sunday race will be shown live on Eurosport TV mid-afternoon between the two BSB races, and a maximum number of spectators will therefore witness the action.
2016 Champions, Ricky Stevens and Ryan Charlwood
Defending Champions Ricky Stevens/Ryan Charlwood are looking for a title hat-trick on their JG Speedfit Cool Kawasaki, but the stakes have never been higher. The line-up against them is formidable, with multiple World Champion Tim Reeves, now re-united with brother Tristan heading the queue. Back on Kawasaki machinery sponsored by Carl Cox Motorsport, Reeves has registered to contest the entire series at the expense of the newly designated 600cc World Championship.
Tim Reeves and Greg Cluze
Andy Peach, always a front runner is back for a full season and is paired up with Ken Edwards, vastly experienced and a renowned “hard man”. They are bound to be at the sharp end of proceedings.
Regular Ben Holland, for 2017 with Stuart Ramsay, will again run as team-mate to Rupert Archer/Steve Thomas in Hannafin colours, and a full campaign will be mounted by the young pairing of Rob Biggs/Ben Ransley. At Knockhill last year, and on several other occasions, they raised eyebrows with their speed.
Ben Holland, this year partnered by Stuart Ramsay
Throw into this mix, former BSB star Chris Walker with his Santander Salt Kawasaki, and you are sure to see fireworks. Walker and passenger Ashley Hawes are certain to be looking for an improvement on their fourth place 2016 finish.
Chris Walker and Ashley Hawes
The list of returnees to the championship is headed by Lauder based Steve Kershaw who, after a scintillating 2015 season with passenger Rob Wilson, sustained serious injury in a massive Knockhill crash, and was obliged to sit out last year. Now partnered by fellow Scot Stuart Clark, he showed he has lost none of his form in pre-season testing.
Another welcome face coming back to the championship is the likeable and extremely capable Phil Bell. Mounted on the ex-Sean Hegarty Suzuki and paired with Tony Belsey, the Northumbrian was always a formidable force.
Veteran Brian Gray has moved to 600cc power in his long LCR, and is running an identical second bike ridden by Alan Founds/Tom Peters.
Brothers and experienced former passengers Sam and Adam Christie team up for the first time with a 600, and again, they impressed in early season testing.
A new name to conjure with, at least on three wheels, is lady TT star Maria Costello. She is crewed by Helen Deeley, and is entered under the JG Speedfit Cool Kawasaki banner.
The field has never been stronger, with too many talented names to mention individually, but one thing is for sure – 2017 promises to be a stellar year in the sport of sidecar racing.
With live Eurosport TV coverage, a dedicated highlights show courtesy of Frontrunner on Freeview and Freesat, along with unprecedented Global exposure, awareness will be at an all-time high.
Race weekend timetable available on www.britishsuperbike.com