With the opening round of the 2017 championship still nine weeks away, the number of registered crews has already hit record levels. An impressive thirty-eight outfits have signalled their intentions to contest most of the rounds, with a hard core of twenty-eight signed up for the entire series. This is indeed great news for the hordes of sidecar fans at trackside and at home. The over-riding factor is the return of several top names along with an influx of new talent. As a direct result, the quality of the 2017 grid will be at unprecedented levels.
Top of the list of established former front runners to re-enlist is the very rapid Steve Kershaw from Lauder. He and passenger Rob Wilson were forced to retire with serious injury late in the 2015 season, and he makes a very welcome return with the experienced Stuart Clark alongside on the Express Tyres/Blinkbonny Quarry Kawasaki. Another top-flight driver to make a come-back is the likeable and un-assuming Roger Lovelock. The Marlborough man, a former champion and regular podium finisher, is also re-united with ace passenger Rick Lawrence. Once again BMW powered, Lovelock enjoys support from BB Bikeshop/Phoenix ECIGS and will be out to smoke the opposition.
Northumbrian Phil Bell, partnered by Tony Belsey was another name sorely missed in recent seasons. Always in the hunt previously, they will once again a thorn in the side of the top crews as they campaign the ex-Hegarty Suzuki. The plethora of regular talent includes Andy Peach returning from an enforced sabbatical, Ben Holland now teamed with Stuart Ramsey, and Chris "The Stalker" Walker, who with Ashley Hawes, must be looking to better the fourth place finish of his rookie season.
A clash with World Championship races will see the Birchall Brothers and John Holden/Lee Cain absent from a handful of rounds, whilst multiple World Champion Tim Reeves, registered again with Frenchman Gregory Cluze, has stated his intention to focus on the British Title. This will indeed be a fascinating prospect, as he goes head to head in all rounds with the double and reigning champions Ricky Stevens/Ryan Charlwood. Now under the JG Speedfit banner, the Kawasaki duo know they will have a fight on their hands to make it three in a row.
High Wycome Motorcycle dealer, and veteran racer Brian Gray is moving to 600cc Yamaha power in a long chassis, and will be fielding an identical outfit in his colours with Alan Founds and Tom Peters aboard. The list of newcomers is further enhanced by the presence of an all-lady crew, as talented TT racer Maria Costello joins forces with Helen Deeley on a 600cc Kawasaki with assistance from Cool Milk.
The new 600c format now truly established has attracted no fewer than fourteen registered outfits intent on fighting tooth and nail for the Cup honours, and was the main factor in tempting TT star Michael Dunlop to show his worth at the Brands Finale in 2016. After such a stunning debut, he has already expressed a strong desire for more. Do not rule out more of the same from him if the opportunity arises. Who would bet against it?
With so much to see and report, all eyes will be on the opener in April, but rest assured, there will be more, much more to report in the weeks ahead.
Media Matters barry.nutley
UPDATED ENTRY LIST FROM MDMD AT 7TH FEBRUARY
Race Number Driver Hometown Passenger Make CC Chassis Main Sponsor
2 Ryan Crowe Jurby IOM Harry Payne Triumph 600 HCR
3 John Holden Blackburn Lee Cain/Mark Wilkes Kawasaki 600 LCR Barnes/Silicone Eng Racing
4 Andy Peach Cliffe Woods Ken Edwards Kawasaki 1000 LCR L&W Racing
5 Rob Biggs Chester Ben Ransley Suzuki 1000 LCR
7 Brian Gray High Wycombe TBC Yamaha 600 LCR BGR Powerbiking
8 Alan Founds Gosport Tom Peters Yamaha 600 LCR BGR Powerbiking
9 Chris Walker Newark Ashley Hawes Kawasaki 1000 LCR Santander Salt
10 Rod Robinson Farnborough Shelly Smithies Suzuki 1000 LCR
11 Dean Nicholls Highbridge Kenny Cole Kawasaki 1000 LCR Certain Exhibitions
15 Gordon Shand Auchentiber Phil Hyde Suzuki 600 LCR
16 Ben Birchall Mansfield Tom Birchall Yamaha 600 LCR Mitchells of Mansfield
18 Phil Bell Bedlington Tony Belsey Suzuki 1000 LCR
19 Ian Guy Rochester Jed Pilmoor-Brady Suzuki 1000 LCR L&W Racing
22 Dave Wallis Alfreton Scott Hardie Suzuki 600 LCR Amber Valley Petpals
25 Matt MacLaurin Maidstone Adrian Hope Yamaha 1000 LCR Blue Group/Fileder Filters
29 Steve Kershaw Lauder Stuart Clark Kawasaki 1000 LCR Express Tyre Service Lockerbie/Blinkbonny Quarry
31 Barry James Retford Jack Tritton Kawasaki 1000 LCR
32 Gary Horspole Sleaford James Connell Suzuki 1000 LCR Sleaford Quality Foods/Baker Plant Hire
34 Sam Christie Beverley Adam Christie Honda 600 LCR Christie Engineering Services
36 Scott Parnell Long Sutton TBC Suzuki 1000 LCR
44 Gary Bryan North Kelsey TBC Kawasaki 1000 LCR Santander Salt
49 Roger Lovelock Marlborough Rick Lawrence BMW 1000 LCR BB Bikeshop/Phoenix ECIGS
58 Martin Kirk Stourbridge Ben Hughes Kawasaki 1000 LCR
60 Ben Holland Havant Stuart Ramsey Kawasaki 1000 LCR Team Hannafin Racing
69 Greg Lambert Catterick Garrison Julie Canipa Honda 600 GLR
70 Rupert Archer Shrewsbury Steve Thomas Suzuki 1000 LCR Team Hannafin Racing
71 Phillipe Gallerne Rosney sur Seine TBC Suzuki 1000 RCN
72 Peter Founds Knutsford Jevan Walmsley Suzuki 600 LCR
74 Jon Restall Waterlooville Jason Pitt Yamaha 1000 RCN tbc
77 Tim Reeves Tenterton Gregory Cluze Kawasaki 1000 LCR Team E-Aide Motorsport
78 Nev Jones Gainsborough Tom Bryant Yamaha 1000 LCR
84 Maria Costello Northampton Helen Deeley Kawasaki 600 LCR
88 Craig Nicol Cupar Ryan Anderson Suzuki 1000 LCR
92 Shawn Hildige Maidstone Anthony Hildige Suzuki 1000 LCR
95 Lewis Blackstock Rishton Paddy Rosney Suzuki 600 LCR
99 Stephen Ramsden Hebden Bridge Matty Ramsden Honda 600 LCR
100 Ricky Stevens Havant Ryan Charlwood Kawasaki 1000 LCR JG Speedfit Cool Kawasaki
111 Kevin Cable Braintree Guy Pawsey Yamaha 1000 LCR
Wild Card Entrants
118 Jon Bicknell Berkhampstead Andy Haynes Kawasaki 1000 LCR