The Isle of Wight’s Smallbrook Stadium welcomed sidecars back to the venue for the first time in over a decade last weekend. The 2019 British Sidecar Speedway Championships commenced on the island, with the first of four rounds unfolding before the Isle of Wight crowd. A full night of dramatic action took place upon their return, with the drama and mayhem continuing right up to the very final lap of the evening.
Mick Cave and Bradley Steer’s excellent 11 points haul, which included three heat wins, was matched only by one other crew heading into the final. Defending champion Paul Whitelam, teaming with former British Lefthand Sidecar Champion Richard Webb, had also gone through the card with only one second place to their name. However, it was Cave/Steer who had dealt the blow to the reigning champ. Former multi-British Champion Mark Cossar and passenger Sam Heath had had a highly turbulent trip to the final. After throwing a chain and smashing a fist-sized hole in the side of their Suzuki GSX-R engine, Mark and Sam had started their evening with a non-finish. After having to work hard to pass Will Penfold/Ricky Pay in their second heat, they were then beaten by Cave/Steer in their third ride and the winner-take-all repercharge loomed for Cossar/Heath. Despite dropping the heat to Cossar/Heath in their second ride, Penfold/Pay looked to have made a marked improvement. They held off Cossar/Heath for three and a half laps before losing their lead in the final corner, following a robust manoeuvre from Cossar/Heath. Penfold/Pay added another heat win in their following heat before finishing second to Whitelam/Webb in their final ride. All of the front runners had beaten one another heading into the final stages of the meeting.
As well as Cossar’s miserable opening heat luck with his chain, younger brother Tom Cossar suffered problems of his own. He and passenger Wayne Rickards twice threw the chain from the outfit. In their first race, they had led until the problem. This was the maiden voyage of the brand new machine, and Cossar/Rickards did give a glimpse of what is to come.
In one of the most bizarre heats of the evening, experienced crew Nevill Penfold/Kevin Jones picked up the first of two wins. After early heat leaders Cossar/Heath shed their aforementioned chain, Penfold/Jones found themselves having to defend an inherited lead from Nev’s son Jack and passenger Kieron Ivy. On a heavily watered surface, Penfold Jnr and Ivy were unsighted by mud from the back wheel of the leaders, and spectacularly careered in-field. They narrowly avoided catastrophe as the outfit collided heavily with the kerb. Nevill Penfold/Kevin Jones were left in the lead, but more drama was not far away. Joe Mogg/Joe Smith, who’d been having chassis problems as early as practice, also pulled up. Penfold/Jones, now the only survivors began to slow up, wrongly assuming that the race was being brought to a halt. After several seconds of uncertainty, driver Penfold saw riders waving him on in the pits, and he completed the four laps, picking up three points in the slowest time of the night! To prove that they were worthy heat winners, they duly won their third ride comfortably, heading into the repercharge with two heat wins.
The all-important repercharge was a comparably straightforward affair. After such a torrid night, Mark Cossar/Sam Heath forgot his troubles by winning the race convincingly. Mick Stace/Ryan Knowles completed another fine night’s racing by claiming second, having won a heat earlier in the night. Nevill Penfold/Kev Jones completed an eventful night by claiming third in front of Rob Wilson/Terry Saunters.
With the meeting poised so nicely with uncertainty, the four riders for the final came onto the circuit. Very few were able to predict a winner…and this unpredictability continued until the final lap! Mick Cave/Bradley Steer made a terrific start and first bend and led the chasing pack. Paul Whitelam/Richard Webb were made to work overtime to keep Mark Cossar/Sam Heath at bay and defend their second. But entering bend 4 on lap 3, the unthinkable would befall the leader. Cave/Steer’s outfit span sideways violently. Despite the best efforts of both driver and passenger, they couldn’t keep the machine from heading in-field and they saw their victory snatched cruelly from their grasp. Paul Whitelam/Richard Webb inherited the lead and completed the final lap, picking up a victory in the opening round of Whitelam’s defending season. Cossar/Heath typically still finished second despite such a disastrous night, such is the capability and calibre of Cossar. Team 22’s Will Penfold/Ricky Pay finished with a best ever performance of third aboard their brand new Holder R1 speedway outfit.
A fine night’s racing once again from the sidecars with more questions being posed than answers being found. There is no doubt that several crews have upped their game considerably for 2019, and the sport has never looked so competitive. The next round takes place in less than a month at Somerset Speedway. The date for your diary is Friday 28th
June. Expect even more high speed thrills and spills from the spectacular sidecars in the Westcountry at the end of the month.