11 Aug 2011

Coyote days part 2: enter the sidecars

As I said in my previous article, the sidecar sessions were easily the most spectactular of last weekend's Coyote days racetrack sessions for classic motorcycles on the Nogaro circuit in South-Western France. Most of the teams on the track really went for it, and some looked impressively fast. They were rightly applauded by the spectators for the show they put on.

It is sometimes hard to understand how these contraptions work (the one above, on a Ducati base, was far too high to be able to corner properly) or even how they stay on the ground, but they are very impressive to watch, and the passengers deserve our praise for their capacities as contortionists, and probably for their blind faith in the driver.

As with the previous subject, one's reactions to this kind of event depend on which side of the fence (real or virtual) you stand. I was clearly a spectator, but I hope to be a participant in the future, though with a solo bike I should add.

The sidecar sessions mixed bikes from various eras, hence with different appearances that went from the maked to the fully faired and streamlined formula one look-alike, including the "dustbin" type fairing that I can remember from the 1960's and early 1970's when I watched a lot of races in the UK (see the first and last machines in this queue on the short straight out of the hairpin by the stands. They also has their sidecars on different sides, which made for some interesting situations on the corners at times.

The battles between teams and machines seemed far more keen that with the solo bikes. The more modern machines, powered by four-cylinder japanese angines, had a huge power advantage on the BMW and Ducati twins, not to mention the odd English twin outfit.

One of the elements that really makes me enjoy sidecar racing is its sheer physicality. The two on board, and especially the passnger, clearly have to fight and balance all the time just to keep their contraptions on the track. And they are so close....And also, sometimes, men and women as a team which inevitably adds a sexual charge to the struggle.

Above are some of the faster boys and you can see by their track positions that they were not hanging about. And below, in their order of speed, are the two fastest outfits on the track that day: number 11 easily the fastest, followed by number 33.

And, on the final lap, one of the passengers just had to celebrate like this (and he held this position for a good kilometer!). It makes lying down and scrambling about in that little box-like space look quite easy.

I really like sidecar racing. Think I'll go again.

all photographs by David Cobbold

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