Sidecars on the move
All are probably agreed that the TT Races are in a period of transition, many feeling that, a couple of years ago we were in danger of losing the Sidecar event. Not so, the 2005 Programme, announced during Practice Week, saw the three-wheelers firmly in position to be a part of the long term TT future. 2004 witnessed a coup – when the entry list was confirmed, on it was 2001 Sidecar World Champions, Klaus Klaffenbock and Christian Parzer. The TT Organisers were rising to the challenge, striking a deal to bring one of the world’s top crews to the IoM. If the Austrians were successful, enjoyed the racing and the ambience, they would return, hopefully enticing other high profile continental entries in future…. the TT was moving on.
With competitive machinery secured – Ian Bell’s 2003 winning engine, Klaffenbock was on the Glencrutchery Road for the first practice session on the Saturday evening. Some of the cynics now came out of the woodwork as the pair completed their only circuit that evening in a time of 27 minutes 46.4 seconds at 81.50mph to be 47th quickest – were they here just to take the money, like some high profile American solo riders of a few years ago? Any such thoughts were certainly quashed over the next ten days or so, as the pairing learnt the course, perfected lines and increased their speed.
One legitimate cause for concern was the allocated start number – 12, in front of possible podium contenders, Holden, Lambert, Bryan and Neary. As ever in the sidecar paddock, camaraderie prevailed, advice offered, assistance given, with, for example, Greg Lambert and his ballast, Ivan Murray, taking the Austrians for a lap to indicate lines and breaking points.
Next practice session on Monday evening saw two laps, the first at 90.77 mph and then one in a time of 24 minutes 12.3 seconds at 93.53 mph… their professionalism was showing through. In fact everything about their approach and demeanour was professional, none more so than the well organised working area and mobile home/transporter at the rear of the Grandstand. Their “home” for the fortnight, seen in the photograph, even had an external serving compartment, equipped with microwave and coffee percolator!
Well, what happened during Tuesday evening’s practice could only be seen on the TT Course; if you had the choice as to where to break down, you’d probably choose one of several “watering holes” dotted around the circuit – to see Klaffenbock and Parzer sitting on their broken down Yamaha outside the Railway Hotel, Union Mills, after the roads had opened, drinking beer, posing for photographs and signing autographs epitomised the charisma of the TT. Apparently, the Austrian driver suggested to one particular photographer that they should have the photograph printed in time for Friday practice as he intended to stop again to sign it! This did prove to be the case as his second lap, during that session, of 69.57mph would suggest.
Wednesday evening – 95.73mph, then 99.13mph – talk was now of when would the 100mph lap be achieved! Klaffenbock, who has finished in the top three of the Sidecar World Championship on no fewer than eight occasions, doesn’t just devote all of his time to three wheels, as he runs the World Supersport team of the experienced Sebastien Charpentier and the youthful Max Neukirchner on Honda CBR600RRs. However, on the first Friday in June his thoughts were on final preparations for Sidecar Race “A”; no 100mph lap, as, under the circumstances, that wouldn’t be expected when “breaking-in” chains, tyres and the like.
Race day beckoned – one of the first things the Austrians did after setting up home in the paddock was to join the TT Supporters Club and in so doing were persuaded by Club Chairman, Roy Hanks, to be part of our team, competing for the Club Team Award. So, together with the Roy / Dave Wells partnership and fellow newcomers, Trevor Tullett / Lisel Marie Amos, our Austrian friends lined up for the start of their first TT Race representing the TT Supporters Club.
Lap one, 99.82mph, 24th position and then, on the second circuit, Klaffenbock and Parzen achieved what everyone around the course wanted them to do – complete a lap at over the 100mph average. It was in fact at a speed of 101.95mph to put them into 20th position; slightly slower for the third circuit, but a well-deserved 19th finishing slot at an average for the three lap event of 101.05mph, the first non-replica finisher, a mere 12.2 seconds away from that coverted award. Not the highest finishing newcomers, but an extremely respectable achievement for a pairing starting its true road racing career. All three TTSC crews finished, but were beaten for the Club Team Award on collective time by the Andreas Racing Association “A” squad of Dave Molyneux / Daniel Sayle, Nick Crowe / Darren Hope and Neil Kelly / Jason O’Connor.
In Wednesday’s Sidecar “B” Race Klaffenbock and Parzen were going really well, having worked their way up to 14th position [and, interestingly, the highest placed newcomer] with a second lap speed of 104.14mph only to retire at Glen Vine on the final circuit.
Klaffenbock’s final thoughts were that he will hopefully return in 2005 with a Honda powered machine, maybe, even bringing more top continental crews with him, as he says the interest is certainly there. We hope he’ll comeback, even become an ambassador for the TT…. yes, the TT is on the move, sidecar racing in particular.
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