A fast, furious night of three wheeled action took place last Friday at Somerset’s Oak Tree Arena as the UK’s hottest sidecar speedway teams clashed in the second round of the 2019 British Championships. What unfolded was race after race of thrilling, dramatic action. There’s no doubt that the action was an unpredictable, wide-open affair, but a familiar name rose above them all to claim the glory.
As well as several surprise packages emerging in the early heats, two firmly established front-runners led the way by the end of the third set of heats. Former British champion Mark Cossar, who had paired with Gareth Williams for the evening, romped to three highly impressive wins, clocking the fastest times of the night by a considerable margin. Equalling his maximum score, however, was Mick Cave and Bradley Steer. They looked equally as impressive, though their race times swung the odds in Cossar/Williams’ favour.
The two maximum crews clashed in a superb Heat 19 battle. Cossar/Williams made a woeful start and had to fight hard to get on terms with Cave/Steer. Mick Stace/Ryan Knowles made things difficult for Cossar/Williams in the early part of the race, but once Stace had been disposed of, Cossar/Williams hunted down and eventually passed Cave/Steer with a remarkable, wide-riding manoeuvre. This meant that Cossar/Williams were the only crew to head into the final unbeaten.
Although these established stars topped the points chart, the night was full of surprises. Mick Stace and Ryan Knowles had two excellent victories in their opening rides, aided no doubt by the presence in their pit bay of sidecar speedway legend Russell Mitchell. The Western Australian was in the country for a holiday, but couldn’t resist stopping in on the action. Stace/Knowles looked like they too would head into the fourth leg with three wins, but they oversteered dramatically on the opening lap of their third heat while leading, causing them to run in-field. Still, by this time they had set a marker down for their potential.
With youngest Cossar, Tom, sunning himself on holiday, father Andy took to the reigns of his son’s brand new Crossplane speedway outfit, even recruiting Tom’s passenger Wayne Rickards for the evening. The Cossar Snr/Rickards pairing put in several strong performances, including an impressive third-to-first heat win, demonstrating Andy’s excellent track craft. After such a strong showing, they headed into the Semi-Final repercharge with an 8-point-haul.
Steve Maitland and Terry Madley are also a crew well deserving of a mention. The former Left Hand sidecar racer and hugely experienced passenger looked fast from their opening race, where they led both Rob Wilson/Terry Saunters and Paul Whitelam/Alann Elliott for the first two laps of the race. Things would only get better for them later, when they disposed of Will Offen/Steve Hargreaves to gain their first win as a pairing. Offen/Hargreaves, though beaten from behind here, were in tremendous form and had scored enough points to join Cave/Steer and Cossar/Williams in the A Final.
Maitland/Madley, despite an excellent showing, narrowly missed out on the repercharge spot. It had been that first heat that had made the difference. They tied with Whitelam/Elliott on points, but the defending champs were given the nod for the repercharge due to beating Maitland/Madley in that heat.
Perhaps not so much of a surprise performance came from another former Lefthand racing crew. Three times British champions Will Penfold and Ricky Pay had raised plenty of eyebrows with their stunning display in the first round at the Isle of Wight. Therefore, their consistent performances on this night did not come as much of a surprise, although they were mightily impressive. A win in their third ride, which included a sizeable collision with the boards, confirmed their placing in the repercharge.
In the winner-to-the-final repercharge, Andy Cossar/Wayne Rickards’ evening would end with misery. After such a fine outing, they lifted and veered into the in-field, ruining their race. More drama was to follow several seconds later. Will Penfold/Ricky Pay had narrowly taken the lead, with Mick Stace/Ryan Knowles and Paul Whitelam/Alan Elliott giving chase at breathtakingly close proximity. As the three outfits charged up the back straight, the slightest of touches between Stace/Knowles and Penfold/Pay caused carnage for all three outfits. Stace/Knowles came off worst of the three, though Penfold/Pay span infield and overturned their machine.
So the rerun saw a depleted field, with Stace/Knowles excluded for the incident and Cossar/Rickards not allowed to join the rerun as they’d already stopped before the race was halted.
Penfold/Pay made no mistakes in the rerun. They made a good start and comfortably led Whitelam/Elliott for four laps to take the last spot in the final.
In the final, Cossar/Williams once again rode their incredibly fast wide line to take the victory and claiming a five-race maximum. This put 16 points in the championship bank and moved them to the top of the championship table. Cave/Steer rode well to hold onto second, with Penfold/Pay third, despite suffering carburetion problems early in the race. Ironically, after Russell Mitchell had discussed his plans for fuel-injection development, fourth placed outfit Will Offen/Steve Hargreaves also ran into fuel-related problems as their machine went sick at this vital juncture.
With previous championship leaders Paul Whitelam/Alan Elliott only scoring 7 points, the top of the championship looks very close, with just 10 points separating the top 5 crews now. It is all to play for at the third round, which is to be held at Leicester Speedway on Friday 19th
July. This round was a true spectacle of sidecar speedway racing, and this year’s championship really has caught fire. The next round looks to be unmissable, with several absent outfits coming back for the third round.