Fresh ground was broken at the end of the 2019 season when a youngster, almost a rookie in fact, beat all the established stars to the British Championship title. Todd Ellis, partnered by the experienced Chaz Richardson set the paddock alight, and made everyone sit up and notice.
It’s a known fact sidecar crews can continue racing at a high level far longer than their solo counterparts, and that has led to the age profile in the paddock tending to be higher. The number of youngsters coming into the sport is small, so when we do get real talent at an early age it is something to be celebrated and promoted. In most cases, the younger element is attracted by family involvement with the youngsters growing up alongside three wheels rather than two.
For 2021, three such riders will be hell-bent on making their reputations and following in the footsteps of Todd Ellis.
Tommy Philp made his full debut last year having dominated the Bemsee Club Championship in 2019 with Jonny Allum as passenger.
Now aged 25, Tommy began at the age of 11 on an Aprilia and quickly got to grips with club racing. 2010 saw him lift the BMCRC MRO Superteen Championship before crossing to the BSB paddock on Motostar and 600cc Superstock machinery. 2014 came, and he took overall victory in the MRO 600 Supersport series on Yamaha, with the Champion of Brands and Snetterton titles going his way the same year.
Three more seasons in the British Supersport paddock at BSB and it was time to move to three wheels. His father Bill was an extremely successful sidecar racer at National and World level and is more involved in Tommy’s sidecar career today than he has ever been.
With Tom Bryant now in the chair, Tommy had a couple of British Championship rides to see out 2019, and the pair then had a promising but interesting 2020. Seventh place at the end of the year with mechanical woes did not reflect their capability, so for 2021, we can expect big things from Tommy Philp and Tom Bryant.
Another youngster stepping up, with less actual track time behind him, but an absolute wealth of sidecar knowledge and experience in his head, is George Holden son of TT winner John Holden. Sidecar racing is in the DNA of the Holden family, and John is a regular front runner not just in the Isle of Man, but at British Championship and Grands Prix events. The experience and advice he will be able to pass to George is immense and will seriously shorten the youngster’s learning curve.
George is 27 years old and only began racing in 2019 on an F2 Windle at Darley Moor, teaming up with nineteen-year-old passenger Oscar Lawrence along the way. They moved to Bemsee events in 2020 on an F1 becoming Champions despite the COVID crisis. A promising toe in the water at the Brands finale rounded out the year, and all eyes then turned to 2021. Passenger Oscar too has strong pedigree, as his father Rick partnered Roger Lovelock to British Championship glory. John Cable and Ian Barnes are the main sponsors of this exciting new pairing who will campaign a Suzuki LCR. This young duo will still be learning the game, but certainly have all the theory and support they need to get quickly on the pace.
No so young, but still only 30 years of age and already well established, is Lee Crawford from Bishop Auckland. He and Scott Hardie made a few cameo appearances last year on their TT spec Suzuki powered F2 outfit and really put the “cat among the pigeons” with victory at Donington Park. The highlight of their season however was a clean sweep at Oliver’s Mount. For 2021 they are committed to the British Championship. They have now invested in an ex-John Holden Kawasaki LCR long chassis so will be on level terms.
A lifetime of racing karts at the top level gave Lee all the track-craft he needed before following in his father Mike’s footsteps with sidecar outfits. To say that Mike has been influential in Lee’s career would be understating a well-known fact. Lee was there in the race paddock from the age of 8 years and became steeped in the sport. Mike has travelled every step of the way supporting Lee, and in doing so has earning himself a reputation as a passionate and lively member of the paddock.
This is another example of sidecar DNA filtering into the next generation, and Lee Crawford/Scott Hardie will be ones to watch once they master the long bike.
So, the series is in good hands for the future, but how easily will the old guard step aside? Not for a minute methinks, but what a prospect we have before us.