Sidecar speedway for 2019 got off to a bang last weekend as the roaring 1000cc outfits came to the tapes for the first time. It was a night of ups and downs for many of the crews with plenty of ‘shake-ups’ taking place, but eventually the cream appeared to rise to the top as former multi-British champions Mark Cossar and Carl Blyth took an emphatic victory aboard their brand new Suzuki GSX-R outfit. It was far from plain-sailing for the Cossar outfit, however, as the Rugby racer experienced a turbulent night from race number one.
Cossar and Blyth headed into a tight turn one in Heat One only to find themselves oversteering and facing backwards. There had definitely been contact between Cossar/Blyth and Will Offen/Steve Hargreaves, but the referee made the decision to exclude the pre-meeting favourites.
To make matters worse, Mark’s father, Andy Cossar and his passenger Jake Fumarola were involved in a nasty looking accident in Heat Two. Cossar Snr suffered concussion in the incident and was taking to the medical facility for further observation. Not an ideal start to the evening for the Cossar family. Tom Cossar (the youngest of the Cossar brothers) could only manage a lacklustre third in the heat which followed his father’s accident. The night had made a turbulent start but was about to get much better for the Cossar brothers.
Meanwhile, reigning British champions Paul Whitelam/Alan Elliott were having a torrid time of their own. They had blown an engine at a training day three weeks prior to this event. After looking very quick in practice, ominous plumes of smoke started billowing from the newly fitted R1 Yamaha engine and the motor came to a grinding halt on lap 3 of their opening ride whilst holding 2nd
. The night was over for the defending champions.
Leading them at this point, however, was Mick Cave/Bradley Steer. Their evening got off to a flying start and only faltered later in the night when a determined Cossar/Blyth crew gave Cave/Steer their only defeat of the qualifying heats.
Matthew Fumarola/Gareth Williams looked in tremendous form, winning two out of their first three rides. Sadly however, their night would end here as a serious fuel leak was discovered on the outfit, putting a stop to their meeting. They’d already accumulated 8 points and were well on their way to the final at this point. There’s clearly more to come from this crew.
The night threw up eight different heat winners, such was the openness of the racing. Guernsey racers Clint Blondel/Kev Bennett notched an impressive win in their opening ride, although the incident involving Andy Cossar/Jake Fumarola and Joe Mogg/Ryan Barker meant that the heat was awarded. Simon Heal/Rowland Broomfield, riding their Ducker R1 Crossplane outfit for the first time, expected to be competing in the reserve races but found themselves in the main event by the second set of heats. They started their evening with a win in a fantastic race with fellow ‘B Class’ competitors Billy Winterburn/Ryan Wharton. Both crews were entered into the main event but it was Heal/Broomfield who really shone, taking a good win in their final race of the evening.
Other heat winners included Will Penfold/Ricky Pay, who won their first heat aboard their brand new Mark-One Crossplane outfit. Nevill Penfold/Kev Jones, whose machine also has spent plenty of time in the Mark-One workshop also took a win in their opening ride.
Perhaps the crew who will have been most pleased with the evening’s racing was Mick Stace and Ryan Knowles. Knowles, who was competing in his very first race meeting, crewed Stace to two wins and two second places; enough to see the newly formed pairing safely into the final as second-highest point scorers behind Cave/Steer.
Fortunes had improved somewhat for the Cossar crews since their tempestuous opening rides. Mark and Carl Blyth had made amends by storming to three perfect victories, each smashing the fastest time of the night by a good three seconds…the writing appeared to be on the wall. Similarly, Tom and Wayne Rickards had won two out of their three heats, only finishing second to highest scorers Cave/Steer. Three wins was just enough to put Cossar the elder (and Blyth) into the Final. Equal on points, but with less victories, Cossar the younger (and Rickards) would need to combat in the winner-through-to-final repercharge. Fumarola/Williams had made enough of an impression in their three rides to claim a spot in the repercharge as well, but their stricken machine was in no state for competition. They would sit this one out, allowing Nev Penfold/Kev Jones into the all-important heat. Returnee to three-wheeled racing Kevin Lapham, passengered by Coran Allen, had ridden well all evening and tied on points with Penfold/Jones, but Penfold’s heat win was enough to confirm his spot.
In the race, Tom Cossar/Wayne Rickards rode brilliantly on their R1 Crossplane powered Grasstrack outfit. Nev Penfold/Kev Jones rode a tidy inside line to dispose of Will Penfold/Ricky Pay to claim second.
In the final, it was a case of business as usual for Cossar/Blyth. They hit the front on the first turn and never looked back, though it was notable that Cave/Steer in second did appear to match them for race pace, particularly later in the race. A fine result for Cossar/Blyth after such a worrying start was made all the more pleasing as younger brother Tom and his passenger Wayne Rickards slotted into the final rostrum spot and claimed third. After a solid evening, Mick Stace/Ryan Knowles were also not too far from the third place spot and capped off an impressive evening with a ride in the final.
Sidecar speedway GB is very much off and running for 2019. Plenty of surprises, trials and tribulations took place at Leicester. And with the return of Rob Wilson/Terry Saunters in the future, things could get even more interesting in the future. The next event will take place on the Isle of Wight (a past stronghold of sidecar speedway racing) on Saturday 1st
June. Judging by the level of open competition seen at this event, sidecar speedway is heading towards being unmissable viewing once again. Photos © Marc Websdale and Bob Ruffle