Sidecar racing returned to the Southern 100 after 3 long years away. After what felt like an eternity to any petrol head, fans were finally able to view those monsters on 3 wheels tackle the Billown Circuit once again. It is affectionately named the ‘friendly races’ - due to it being lesser known than the World Famous TT - but still just as exhilarating and draws crowds from near and far.
As I drove to the Billown circuit on both race days, I could feel myself brimming with excitement. After parking up and walking to the circuit anticipation began to build as I could not wait to witness the racing action that lay ahead.
The Billown circuit starts and finishes in Castletown. This is a quaint traditional town which contains many key attractions such as Castle Rushen. This is a medieval castle built around 1265, and is based in the town’s centre. It is a beautiful and scenic town to walk through, especially when en route to watch the sidecar S100.
Before the racing commenced, I visited the paddock. Although I’m Manx and have grown up with the S100, I always find this to be such a surreal experience. I was able to get up close and personal with the sidecars, take still pictures of them and gaze at the magnificence of each machine and the technology that goes into preparing them. This is a great contrast from watching them at high speed on the circuit.
Furthermore, whilst in the paddock I also had the chance to easily get a photo, autograph and meet the sidecar riders. When you talk to the riders you quickly realise that they are quite down to earth and are competing for the thrill and glory of sidecar racing, not for the monetary incentive of winning, of which there is very little.
The best part of all of this is I’m not even a VIP; this makes me feel like I am part of the S100 festival.
Eventually, I made my way to the start/finish straight which is where I was spectating from. The race was well attended with many fans aligning the circuit. However, this I quickly forgot as the sidecars began their race and within a flash were blasting past me at 120 mph and beyond; no more than a couple of metres away from where I was standing. The combined noise of each vehicle is a sound to behold, and the adrenaline you feel lifts your spirits to an ultimate high. In addition, every lap my hand was in my mouth as the sidecars made overtaking maneuvers and got dangerously close to pavements and hedges. Not to mention the crazy angling of the sidecar passengers who were hanging on to their handlebars for dear life. Perhaps anything is possible? This sensation occurs every lap, and it is a feeling that I will never get used to.
For the whole 4 days of action the weather could not have been better. This combined with the succinct radio commentary and catering vans to satisfy my stomach made for a tremendous atmosphere.
Although it is the ‘friendly races’, it goes without saying that it is still a very dangerous event. That is what makes these sidecar competitors even more remarkable, and that is why I have huge respect for each rider and passenger.
The 4 days of sidecar action passes by just as fast as the sidecars go on the circuit. This is a testament to how enjoyable the experience is, but always leaves me feeling a bit disappointed that the event is over for another year.
The S100 is a special race to watch sidecars. There are few motor racing events in the world where you can experience sidecars battling wheel-to-wheel for position on a circuit consisting of public roads. It is a unique event in which you get to witness sidecars at their absolute best.
Is watching the sidecar S100 on your to-do list?
Words by Luke Sherwood-Walker