Biggest and best ever entry list for new season
With the opening round of the 2017 championship still nine weeks away, the number of registered crews has already hit record levels. An impressive thirty-eight outfits have signalled their intentions to contest most of the rounds, with a hard core of twenty-eight signed up for the entire series.
This is indeed great news for the hordes of sidecar fans at trackside and at home. The over-riding factor is the return of several top names along with an influx of new talent. As a direct result, the quality of the 2017 grid will be at unprecedented levels.
Top of the list of established former front runners to re-enlist is the very rapid Steve Kershaw from Lauder. He and passenger Rob Wilson were forced to retire with serious injury late in the 2015 season, and he makes a very welcome return with the experienced Stuart Clark alongside on the Express Tyres/Blinkbonny Quarry Kawasaki. Another top- flight driver to make a come-back is the likeable and un-assuming Roger Lovelock. The Marlborough man, a former champion and regular podium finisher, is also re-united with ace passenger Rick Lawrence. Once again BMW powered, Lovelock enjoys support from BB Bikeshop/Phoenix ECIGS and will be out to smoke the opposition.
Northumbrian Phil Bell, partnered by Tony Belsey was another name sorely missed in recent seasons. Always in the hunt previously, they will once again a thorn in the side of the top crews as they campaign the ex-Hegarty Suzuki. The plethora of regular talent includes Andy Peach returning from an enforced sabbatical, Ben Holland now teamed with Stuart Ramsey, and Chris "The Stalker" Walker, who with Ashley Hawes, must be looking to better the fourth place finish of his rookie season.
A clash with World Championship races will see the Birchall Brothers and John Holden/Lee Cain absent from a handful of rounds, whilst multiple World Champion Tim Reeves, registered again with Frenchman Gregory Cluze, has stated his intention to focus on the British Title. This will indeed be a fascinating prospect, as he goes head to head in all rounds with the double and reigning champions Ricky Stevens/Ryan Charlwood. Now under the JG Speedfit banner, the Kawasaki duo know they will have a fight on their hands to make it three in a row.
High Wycome Motorcycle dealer, and veteran racer Brian Gray is moving to 600cc Yamaha power in a long chassis, and will be fielding an identical outfit in his colours with Alan Founds and Tom Peters aboard. The list of newcomers is further enhanced by the presence of an all-lady crew, as talented TT racer Maria Costello joins forces with Helen Deeley on a 600cc Kawasaki with assistance from Cool Milk.
The new 600c format now truly established has attracted no fewer than fourteen registered outfits intent on fighting tooth and nail for the Cup honours, and was the main factor in tempting TT star Michael Dunlop to show his worth at the Brands Finale in 2016. After such a stunning debut, he has already expressed a strong desire for more. Do not rule out more of the same from him if the opportunity arises. Who would bet against it? With so much to see and report, all eyes will be on the opener in April, but rest assured, there will be more, much more to report in the weeks ahead.
Media Matters - Barry Nutley - firstname.lastname@example.org
Chris Walker and Ashley Hawes
Ricky Stevens and Ryan Charlwood
Tim Reeves and Gregory Cluze
Copyright: Photos: JCM Motorsport