Motorcycle: Sports Two Wheels - Sidecar Racing
Date: Sunday, October 31 @ 17:45:33 UTC
Topic: Motorcycle, Motorcycles, Motor Cycle
Racing sidecars are very different vehicles from the road-going motorcycle combinations to which they are related. Far from being a bike with a sidecar alongside, a modem racing outfit is a specialized structure whose aluminium one-piece chassis holds three small-diameter wheels, each wearing a fat, square-section tyre. These machines have more in common with a racing car than with a bike.
It was not always this way. When sidecar racing first became popular in the 1920s, outfits were indeed solos with a lightweight, large-wheeled chair bolted on. In 1923 the first Isle of Man sidecar TT was won by Freddie Dixon, whose Douglas outfit featured a lever with which passenger Walter Perry made the machine bank through corners. Banking Fixicar sidecars were also successful in American dirt-track racing in the 1920s. By the time Britain's Eric Oliver won the first of his four sidecar world championships in 1949, the sidecar had become much lower so allowing the passenger, Denis Jenkinson, to lean out in left-hand bends.
Switzerland and Germany have produced many of the world's best sidecar drivers and designers over the years. Germany's Max Deubel and Emil Horner won four consecutive championships on BMW flat-twins in the 1960s. Swiss Fritz Scheidegger won two titles and did much to advance technical thinking in sidecars. German Helmut Fath won the championship in 1960 with a BMW, and returned after a serious injury to win it again eight years later with the URS, whose four-cylinder four-stroke engine he built himself.
Two-strokes took over in the 1970s, initially with German Konigs and then with Yamahas. The sidecar's chassis revolution came a few years later, led by the Swiss Seymaz, whose monocoque aluminium platform and car-style suspension and wheels gave a lower, lighter machine than the traditional steel frame and telescopic forks. The 1980s and early 1990s were dominated by the LCR chassis, designed by Swiss Louis Christen and a development of the theme.
The greatest driver of modem times is Switzerland's Rolf Biland, who in 1994 won a record seventh championship. Biland also helped develop the BRM V-four engine, which proved powerful but unreliable in 1995, and was intended for use in both sidecars and 500cc solos. But in other respects the gap between two and three-wheeled racing has widened. Although sidecars retain following they have been excluded from many Grand Prix venues, and their future remains in doubt.
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