The financial viability of bikesport in general has been a hot topic for several years now, and sidecar Grasstrack is no different in gathering growing concern regarding the sheer cost of competing in the 21st
century. However, an increasing interest is being taken in a small, cheap alternative sidecar class growing momentum throughout the 2016 season- the ‘old and new’ sidecar class. The class caters for older sidecar machines and new 500cc parallel, air-cooled outfits.
The class is not to be mixed with the super-competitive continental 500cc sidecar class that currently competes on the circuits of the UK and Europe. This brand new sidecar class is aimed at providing a gateway for riders wanting to enter into the ultra-competitive world of sidecar Grasstrack.
The 500cc machines are cheap and simple to build. The engines are 500cc air-cooled engines, with the Suzuki GS 500 engine seeming the most popular option at present. Engines are very easily sourced and come as cheap as £100 in some cases. They are left running on petrol, kept with standard electrics and running gear and placed in an old 1000cc sidecar grass track outfit.
Currently finishing his first full season on the bars of a ‘new’ sidecar is 16-year-old Thomas Newton. Riders like Thomas are exactly who this sport is aimed at; young riders wanting to race in the sidecar class but cannot afford the often-extortion attached to mainstream sidecar racing. Newton, from Cornwall, has already shown that the class can provide plenty of entertainment from both sides of the ropes. His battles this season with more experienced driver Mark Courtney have been the highlight of the events where ‘old and new’ sidecars have been competing.
The machine that Newton has been competing on has been built by his grandfather and was put together for less than £1000. The Suzuki GS engine is mounted in an old SGM frame with parts donated and sourced from various old Grasstrack outfits. Newton races with his passenger (and Uncle) Ben Bushell who had also never competed in sidecar racing until this opportunity arose. This class does also provide a platform for sidecar passengers to get a taste of the action before being placed astride a hugely powerful 1000cc machine.
The class came to fruition when two requests came together. Firstly, the spiralling cost of Grasstrack sidecar racing was causing fewer and fewer youngsters to enter the sport and a cheaper alternative were being sought. Secondly, several key members of the Pre 75 sidecar fraternity wanted to race their machines, but were few in numbers. Pre 75 competitor Lewis Wharton Jnr contacted the ACU regarding the Pre 75 class whist rules had already been written for two ‘new’ classes; a 250cc class for 12-15 year-olds, and a super-cheap 500cc class for those who are 16 and above. After the ACU were approached by both groups of enthusiasts, an agreement was reached which would bring these two together. In corroboration with Grasstrack sidecar legend Alan Artus, who himself looked to compete on the Pre 75 machine, the ‘Old and New’ Sidecar class was born.
In its initial season, most of the racing has been done in the South West of England, although competitors come from across the country. However, the hope is that the potential of this racing class is seen nationwide and many others begin to build outfits to fit the cheap air-cooled machines. The next step for this class is to gain more competitors and begin to race further afield, hoping that the riders competing filter into the mainstream sidecar classes in years to come- Thomas Newton has already started planning his 1000cc career for the future, and will come with several seasons of full sidecar driving experience (a first for Grasstrack sidecar racing). Newton’s younger brother Dillon is expected to take to the bars next season on another machine built by Chris, the Newton boy’s Grandfather.
If you are interested in competing in this class, it really is as easily accessible as it seems. Sidecar frames can be sourced from all around the country and suitable engines are available at very cheap prices. Alternatively, ‘try before you buy’ opportunities are available. Mark Courtney or Christ Tyrrell of the Mid Cornwall Premier Motorcycle Club have already given potential racers an opportunity to ride a new 500 GS sidecar. All of this is in the hope of building a better future for sidecar racing in general.