With two third places achieved at the Sidecar World Championship rounds at German Speedweek in Oschersleben, Jörg Steinhausen and Ashley Hawes haven’t lost sight of their world championship dreams.
Qualifying was tight and exciting among the leading teams for this important weekend of racing. Right from the start of free practice, the riders were only separated by a few split seconds, with Steinhausen/Hawes enjoying spells on provisional pole position, before Birchall and Paivärinta posted faster times at the end of the session. With a gap of just 0.25 seconds to the front, however, Jörg and Ashley knew they had a chance.
The German-British squad, however, had an unlucky start to the first 10-lap Sprint race. Starting from the dirty side of the track, Steinhausen/Hawes couldn’t get off the line fast enough and were overtaken by Lawrie/Neaves. “We tried to squeeze past them in the first corner, in order to not lose sight of the leaders, but Scott was riding defensively and we couldn’t get through,” says Steinhausen. After a while though, they managed to fight their way past but by this time there was a gap of five seconds to the lead, so they were forced to settle for the last spot on the podium on their Steinhausen Racing LCR BMW.
The following day’s 21-lap race took place in mixed conditions. With overcast skies and spots of rain falling, it was the Birchall Brothers who got the hole shot into the first series of bends on their LCR Suzuki, followed closely by Jörg and Ashley. By the second lap the Birchalls had pulled a gap to Steinhausen, who was fending off Paivarinta.
When the rain began to fall harder, the red flags came out and the teams came into pit lane to fit wet tyres but it soon dried out so they remained on slick, although it was classified as a wet race. When the lights went out for the 14-lap restart it was the Birchalls who led into the first complex of bends, followed by Steinhausen, and this time round it was Lawrie and Neave who slotted into third.
As the race progressed the Birchall Brothers were starting to pull out a healthy gap on Steinhausen, who was under a lot of pressure from Paivarinta and Hanni. Steinhausen fought hard but when Paivarinta and Hanni did get by they started to chase after the Birchalls, leaving Steinhausen and Hawes behind.
In the end, the LCR BMW pairing took the chequered flag in third. Jörg said later: “We just didn’t have the power to stay with the leading two, both Ashley and I are trying so hard but we can’t just get there.” This was a view shared by teammate Ashley, who said: “It’s not what we wanted but these are good points for the team, who all worked so hard over the weekend for us.”
The gap to the championship lead is now 17 points, but there are still three races remaining on the calendar, so anything can still happen in the crazy world of motorsport.
Photo credits: Mark Walters