WEBSTER RETIRES FROM SIDECAR RACING
Team Castrol Suzuki's sidecar racing legend Steve Webster M.B.E. announced his immediate retirement from the sport. Amid emotional scenes at the Circuit van Drenthe at Assen, Holland on Sunday, the ten time World Champion announced he was going to hang up his leathers and helmet for good.
His decision calls to an end a magnificent and unparalleled record-breaking career that has seen him rise from a 19-year-old club racer to the most successful sidecar racer in the history of the FIM World Championships.
His career began at Elvington Airfield circuit, near York, back in 1980, and along the way he amassed race wins and championships at every level, culminating in last year's staggering achievement of an unprecedented triple crown of British, European and World titles.
The first World Title came back in 1987, in only Webbo's fourth season of world Championship events, with Tony Hewitt in the chair. Further titles were added in 1988 and 1989. Gavin Simmons took over as passenger to record another title in 1991. A gap of six years followed - including an almost season-long retirement in 1995 -- before three back-to-back titles in 1997, 98 and 99 with David James.
In 2000 current passenger Paul Woodhead joined Webster, taking the 2000 World crown, before adding two more in 2003 and 2004.
Webster has also notched up the unique distinction of being the only FIM world champion to win ten road racing World Titles in one class.
"I've had a fantastic career, I've enjoyed every minute but it just feels right to stop now. No-one can go on forever. I had a couple of months off due to illness which I'm now over, and I found out I didn't miss it anymore. Everyone has to stop sometime, and that time for me, at 45, is now. I don't feel sad about it. It's been my decision to go now, I haven't been forced into it - so I'm going with a happy heart and a smile, and taking with me so many good memories from friends and rivals.
I've had a great team around me over the years, and it is that close teamwork that has given us the success. There are many people involved who all do a little bit behind the scenes and all that work adds up to win the Championships the team has won....thanks to all of you - you know who you are. It's truly been a great time, and it's lasted for 25 years. It was something I started doing as a hobby, and I've managed to make it a profession -- what more could I have wanted?"
Unfortunately the team were not able to end on a high in Sunday's penultimate round of the 2005 championship. Passenger Paul Woodhead had been thrown from the outfit under hard braking into the first right-hander during the Friday timed practice session. Big Woody sustained some heavy bruising to his arms and a possible broken bone in his wrist. The few fast laps they were able to complete in subsequent practice sessions put them fourth on the grid, but despite treatment the injury proved too much to bear for a full race distance on a long track that pushes passengers really hard.
After two laps of the race, Webbo was forced to pull into the pits for the final time, when Woody could no longer grip safely.
"It was just too painful to hold on. The wrist is badly bruised, and there may be ligament damage or even a break in one of the bones "said a dejected Woodhead.
"It wasn't the way we wanted to finish, but sometimes things don't always go the way you want them to"
Champions elect Tim and Tristan Reeves stormed to another victory in the race, after early pressure from the fast improving French pairing of Seb Delannoy and Nicholas Bidault.
So for Webbo, the final curtain comes down on a truly superlative career -- 181 World Championship races entered....62 wins.....126 World Championship rostrums...10 World titles.....a European championship....seven British national titles....handfuls of club titles...31 consecutive pole positions at World Championship races.....lap records in abundance...
Grown men unashamedly shed tears in the Assen paddock on Sunday evening.
It was the end of an era.
Not everyone is fortunate enough to have lived at a time when they have been able to witness the greatest-ever exponent of their favourite sport in action.
But we did.
We saw Webbo do his stuff....