Rejoicing in Rijeka for New World Champions
Brothers Tim & Tristan Reeves were crowned the New Superside FIM Sidecar World Champions in a dramatic conclusion to the big event here in Rijeka.
The weekend started in controvercial fashion when FIM Jury decided that 30kg of weight ballast could be a safety issue, and decided that the Brothers would instead be given a time Penalty in all 3 of Sunday's races.
In the Saturday Sprint race, added to replace the cancelled Russian race, both Reeves and Championship rival Steinhausen were given 'drive through' penalties for jump starts, allowing Finland's Pekka Päivarinta and passenger Peter Wall from Sweden to score a popular first ever World Championship win on their Päivärinta SRT LCR-Suzuki.
Sunday's action started with the 3 lap Match Race Final in which Pole sitters Reeves would have to contend with a 5 second Time Penalty added to his finishing race time. But the controversy did not stop there. Jorg Steinhausen & Trevor Hopkinson, the only realistic challenger to Reeves' title asperations, failed to appear on the grid.
Reeves tried his hardest in the Final, but with only 3 laps, the action was close and although the Team Roberts Racing machine crossed the finish line just ahead of the pack, when the times were calculated they were dropped back to 5th position behind Steve Norbury & Mark Cox, as Päivärinta & Wall scored their Second Victory ahead of Tero Manninen & Pekka Kuismanen. With Billy Gällros on the Sourcecom BG Sweden machine in 3rd position, it was only the precence of Gällros' passenger Johnny Briggs that denied an all Scandenavian Podium.
The second Sprint Race followed one and a half hours later. And with Steinhausen & Hopkinson taking no further part in the meeting, the door was open for Reeves to extend their championship lead. But it was a fast starting Päivarinta, hungry for more victories, who lead the opening lap. Reeves hit the front and began to open a slight advantage, but the Finnish/Swedish pair pushed hard and held onto the back of the leaders. By the end of the 10 laps, Reeves had only managed to increase the gap between himself an Päivärinta to 6.5 seconds. So when the 10 seconds were added to his time it wasn't enough to stop Päivärinta & Wall from claiming win number three of the weekend. The only other Finnish victory in the FIM Sidecar World Championship was in 1972 at Imatra - But now Pekka had added three more in the space of 24 hours!
Manninen & Kuismanen took another podium in in third on the Tuusmotor LCR- Suzuki, while second position for Reeves was enough to give the brothers a chance of securing the championship in the final 20 lap race of the day - if they could win. To win meant finishing 15 seconds ahead of the rest.
But in the main race Tim & Tristan made a mess of the start and found themselves down in 6th position at the first corner as Päivärinta stormed off into the lead. By the end of the opening lap they had already despatched the German/Swiss pair of Mike Roscher & Adolf Hänni and father and son team of Gary & Dan Knight. On lap two it was the turn of Manninen & Kuismanen and World Championship returnees Tom Hanks & Phil Biggs - on the second Hänni machine - to fall under the charge of Reeves as they moved up to second position.
Next time around, the Team Roberts Racing pair took the lead from the Finn, only for Päivärinta to fight back and force past again, and it took until lap 6 of the 20 laps before Reeves had a hold on first position - on the track.
As the leaders begain to pull away, the battlefor second position became intense, with Päivarinta & Wall coming under pressure first from Manninen and then also Hanks & Biggs. For the next 5 laps the three machines were locked together, until a small coming together between the triple winners and Hanks sent Päivärinta off the circuit and into retirement.
Behind Reeves and the battle for second position, Billy Gällros & Johnny Briggs were locked in combat with Andy Laidlow & Patrick Farrance on the Team LFR machine. The two machines swapping positions lap after lap in a fasinating display on close racing.
Hank & Biggs eventually moved into second position on their Hänni Racing Team LCR-Suzuki and pulled away from Manninen & Kuismanen, while Reeves tried to extend his lead over his rivals.
"With one lap to go my Pit Board showed 14.1s lead, so I knew I had to keep the throttle wide open" said Reeves after the race. "It had started raining during the last two laps, and you never know how hard to go in those conditions, but I wasn't going to back off with the Championship so close".
In the end, Tim & Tristan Reeves crossed the finish line first, and with enough advantage over Tom Hanks & Phils Biggs to claim the maximum 25 points and put the World Championship out of reach of their nearest rivals.
"I've been brought up with sidecars since I was born, and ever since I can remember all I ever wanted was to win the World Championship" said an extatic Tim on the podium. "It hasn't really sunk in yet - but I'm so gald we have achieved this today" added Tristan rounding off a great 7 days after marrying girlfriend Zoe just one week ago.
"We would really like to thank Dave Roberts and the rest of the Roberts family and friends for their full support and giving us the opporttunity to achieve our dreams." The Brothers concluded.
Tom hanks & Phil Biggs meanwhile were extremely pleased to be on the podium in their comeback event. "I never expected to get a podium at our first race back" explained Hanks "I hadn't seen the bike before practice on Thursday, and it has taken all weekend to get back in the groove. But thanks to Adolf and the team for helping Phil and I get back into the championship, and I we're now looking forward to Assen".
The 2005 Championship may have been decide, but Rijeka has shown that there an increasing number of teams capable of battling with the new World Champions. Assen in three weeks time will undoutably produce the continuing levels of excitement that we have seen in Superside this year.