Sidecar World Championship

FIM Sidecar World Championship
Sport Motorcycle sport
Founded 1949
Countries International
Most recent
Ben Birchall (driver)
Tom Birchall (passenger)
LCR-Yamaha YZF-R6

FIM Sidecar World Championship is the international sidecar racing championship. It is the only remaining original FIM road racing championship class that started in 1949.

It was formerly named Superside when the sidecars moved from being part of Grand Prix Motorcycles racing to being support events for the Superbike World Championship. In 2010 the FIM took over the management of the series from the Superside promoters, and the championship was called "FIM Sidecar World Championship". However, the FIM still uses the word Superside for promotion purposes, despite the demise of the Superside promoters.

The championship is raced over a number of rounds at circuits mainly in Europe, although other venues have been included in United States (Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca), South Africa at Kyalami and Australia's Phillip Island.

In 2014, for the first time a Kawasaki-powered machine won the title with Tim Reeves and Gregory Cluze ending an 11-year consecutive Suzuki run. In 2016 Kirsi Kainulainen became the first woman motorcycle world champion, as passenger to Pekka Päivärinta.[1]

Historic Grand Prix racing 1949—1976

The early years of the sidecar world championship were dominated by unambiguous, orthodox outfits where a sidecar was attached to a conventional solo motorcycle. Rigidity and strength were poorly understood and pre-war machines have been described as "scaffolding on wheels". Development was based around cutting weight, providing a flat platform for the passenger, and reducing drag around the sidecar wheel and at the front of the sidecar platform.[2] When developments in dolphin and dustbin fairings on solo machines proved successful at reducing drag, it was natural to adapt similar streamlined enclosures for the sidecar outfits. A pioneer in this area was Eric Oliver who worked with the Watsonian company on the development of successive experimental racing outfits including such innovations as the use of 16 in (410 mm) diameter wheels.[2] By 1953, this had evolved to include the complete redesign of the motorcycle frame, where the seat height had been reduced to the point where the driver now sat in a semi-prone position. This permitted the use of a one-piece fairing which enclosed the front of the outfit as well as the sidecar platform.[3] The enclosure led to unfamiliar handling, and the advanced design was only used in practice for the Belgian Grand Prix and in the final Grand Prix at Monza, where it finished fourth in the hands of Jacques Drion and Inge Stoll.[4] Throughout the year, other outfits experimented with more modest refinements such as additional braking via the sidecar wheel, sometimes linked to one or both of the other two brakes.[5]

Transition Period

Prior to 1977, the racing sidecars were similar to road-going sidecars. A traditional racing outfit was a road-going motorcycle outfit without the boot and with the suspension lowered. The bootless sidecar frame would have a flat platform. Both the battery and the fuel tank could be placed either between the motorcycle and the sidecar, or on the sidecar platform. Over time the subframe, struts, clamps, sidecar frame, etc. would merge with the motorcycle mainframe and form a single frame. But essentially the racing outfit was still a variant of the road-going outfit in principle.

In 1977 George O'Dell won the championship using a Hub-center steering sidecar called the Seymaz, however during that season the Seymaz was rarely used. The Seymaz had been built by Rolf Biland, however O'Dell used his old Windle frame for much of the year. Then in 1978 Rolf Biland won the championship using a sidecar called BEO which was a rear-engine rear-drive trike. To keep up with technological innovations, in 1979 the FIM split the championship in two: One for traditional sidecars (B2A), another for prototypes (B2B). The B2B championship was won by Bruno Holzer using an LCR that turned the act of motorcycle riding into the act of car driving, including sitting on a driver's seat and using foot pedals and a steering wheel. Neither the BEO nor the LCR required much participation from the passenger. The former only required Kenneth Williams to sit on his seat, while the latter only required Charlie Maierhans to lay flat down on the passenger platform. Due to the high cost of technological development, the non-active participation of the riding passengers, and the fear that sidecars would eventually become something that has nothing to do with motorcycles, in 1980 the FIM banned all prototypes. But in 1981 the FIM reversed its decision due to protests from competitors, and allowed prototypes again. However the FIM and the competitors reached a compromise involving the rules: A sidecar must be a vehicle that is driven only by a single rear wheel and steered by a single front wheel, the driver must use a motorcycle handle bar as opposed to a steering wheel for steering, and there must be active participation from the passenger. The only ban that still exists today is the ban of using trikes or cyclecars.

The 1981 rules remain largely unchanged to this day, with the exception that during the late 90s the FIM finally allowed the use of car-type suspension for the front wheel, such as the wishbone suspension. Sidecars that are outside of the technical rules can still compete in racing events, but would not be able to score or record their positions officially. An example would be the team Markus Bösiger/Jürg Egli, who achieved several high placings in the 1998 season using a sidecar in which Bösiger sat driving instead of riding. Even though they were allowed to race, their results were not classified in the official records. They would have finished third in the championship.

The traditional racing sidecars remain popular in several countries, especially the United Kingdom, mainly due to lower cost. They also have lower top speed but better maneuvering capabilities. They are now commonly called Formula Two Sidecars (600cc Engines) which are mostly used in true road racing events like the Isle of Man TT race. This is to distinguish them from the modern post-1980 Superside machines which are now called Formula One sidecars (1000cc Engines).


Between 1981 to 2016 Sidecars raced in Superside are modern high tech machines related to motorcycles only by the engines that are used. The chassis are purpose built and owe more to open wheel race car technology and the tires are wide and have a flat profile. They are sometimes known as "worms".[6] The basic design remains unchanged since 1981. However starting in 2017 the engine capacity was reduced to 600cc, a conscious effort to lure more F2 chassis to participate on equal terms. However, the championship was still dominated by F1 chassis. The highest placing of an F2 chassis in the final classification was 12th by Eckart Rösinger and Steffen Werner on their Baker-Suzuki GSX-R600.

Under FIM regulation, the word "Rider" applies to both the driver and the passenger. The driver is positioned kneeling in front of the engine with hands near the front wheel, while the passenger moves about the platform at the rear transferring their weight from left to right according to the corner and forward or back to gain traction for the front or rear. The passenger also helps the driver when it comes to drifting, and is also usually the first person to notice any engine problems since he is next to the engine while the driver is in front of it. The two must work together to be a successful team. Nowadays it is common to call the driver the "Pilot", while the passenger has several nicknames: the "Acrobat" used in North America which is no longer in use, and the now common term "Monkey" which originated from Australia. Occasionally the words "Co-Driver" or "Co-Pilot" are also used.

The most successful sidecar racer in Superside has been Steve Webster, who has won ten world championships between 1987 and 2004. The most successful chassis is LCR, the Swiss sidecar maker, whose founder Louis Christen has won 35 championships between 1979 and 2016, with a variety of engines, originally Yamaha and Krauser two-strokes, more lately Suzuki four-strokes. The BMW Rennsport RS54 Engine powered to 19 straight constructors titles from 1955 to 1973, the most by any engines.

Match, Sprint, Gold

Since 2005 the organizers have created a new format in which there are now three types of races. A championship round can have all three type of races. But sometimes there is only one type of race (the Gold Race) in one round, usually when the round is a supporting event of a major meeting such as MotoGP.

  • Match Race. Teams are divided into groups and race in very short heat races. Winners and the better placing teams in these heats would advance to the next round (semi-finals), until only the best six teams left for the final heat race. A typical heat race distance is three laps.
  • Sprint Race. All teams participate in a short race. A typical race distance is twelve laps.
  • Gold Race. All teams participate in a long race, usually twice the distance of the sprint race.

FIM Sidecar World Champions

Grand Prix

Season Driver Passenger Bike Constructor
1949 Eric Oliver Denis Jenkinson Norton Manx Norton
1950 Eric Oliver Lorenzo Dobelli Norton Manx Norton
1951 Eric Oliver Lorenzo Dobelli Norton Manx Norton
1952 Cyril Smith Bob Clements
Les Nutt
Norton Manx Norton
1953 Eric Oliver Stanley Dibben Norton Manx Norton
1954 Wilhelm Noll Fritz Cron BMW RS54 Norton
1955 Willi Faust Karl Remmert BMW RS54 BMW
1956 Wilhelm Noll Fritz Cron BMW RS54 BMW
1957 Fritz Hillebrand Manfred Grunwal BMW RS54 BMW
1958 Walter Schneider Hans Strauß BMW RS54 BMW
1959 Walter Schneider Hans Strauß BMW RS54 BMW
1960 Helmut Fath Alfred Wohlgemuth BMW RS54 BMW
1961 Max Deubel Emil Hörner BMW RS54 BMW
1962 Max Deubel Emil Hörner BMW RS54 BMW
1963 Max Deubel Emil Hörner* BMW RS54 BMW
1964 Max Deubel Emil Hörner BMW RS54 BMW
1965 Fritz Scheidegger John Robinson BMW RS54 BMW
1966 Fritz Scheidegger John Robinson BMW RS54 BMW
1967 Klaus Enders Ralf Engelhardt BMW RS54 BMW
1968 Helmut Fath Wolfgang Kalauch URS BMW
1969 Klaus Enders Ralf Engelhardt BMW RS54 BMW
1970 Klaus Enders Ralf Engelhardt
Wolfgang Kalauch
1971 Horst Owesle Julius Kremer
Peter Rutterford
1972 Klaus Enders Ralf Engelhardt BMW RS54 BMW
1973 Klaus Enders Ralf Engelhardt BMW RS54 BMW
1974 Klaus Enders Ralf Engelhardt Busch-BMW RS54 König
1975 Rolf Steinhausen Josef Huber Busch-König König
1976 Rolf Steinhausen Josef Huber Busch-König König
1977 George O'Dell Kenny Arthur
Cliff Holland
Windle-Yamaha TZ500
Seymaz-Yamaha TZ500
1978 Rolf Biland Kenneth Williams TTM-Yamaha TZ500
BEO-Yamaha TZ500
Rolf Biland Kurt Waltisperg Schmid-Yamaha TZ500 Yamaha
Bruno Holzer Charlie Maierhans LCR-Yamaha TZ500 Yamaha
1980 Jock Taylor Benga Johansson Windle-Yamaha TZ500 Yamaha
1981 Rolf Biland Kurt Waltisperg LCR-Yamaha TZ500 Yamaha
1982 Werner Schwärzel Andreas Huber Seymaz-Yamaha TZ500 Yamaha
1983 Rolf Biland Kurt Waltisperg LCR-Yamaha TZ500 Yamaha
1984 Egbert Streuer Bernard Schnieders LCR-Yamaha TZ500 Yamaha
1985 Egbert Streuer Bernard Schnieders LCR-Yamaha TZ500 Yamaha
1986 Egbert Streuer Bernard Schnieders LCR-Yamaha TZ500 Yamaha
1987 Steve Webster Tony Hewitt LCR-Yamaha TZ500 Yamaha
1988 Steve Webster Tony Hewitt
Gavin Simmons
LCR-Yamaha TZ500 Yamaha
1989 Steve Webster Tony Hewitt LCR-Krauser Krauser
1990 Alain Michel Simon Birchall LCR-Krauser Krauser
1991 Steve Webster Gavin Simmons LCR-Krauser Krauser
1992 Rolf Biland Kurt Waltisperg LCR-Krauser Krauser
1993 Rolf Biland Kurt Waltisperg LCR-Krauser Krauser
1994 Rolf Biland Kurt Waltisperg LCR-Swissauto V4 ADM **
1995 Darren Dixon Andy Hetherington Windle-ADM ADM
1996 Darren Dixon Andy Hetherington Windle-ADM ADM
Sidecar World Cup
1997 Steve Webster David James LCR-ADM
500cc 2-stroke or 1000cc 4-stroke
1998 Steve Webster David James LCR-Honda
1999 Steve Webster David James LCR-Suzuki GSX-R 1000
2000 Steve Webster Paul Woodhead LCR-Suzuki GSX-R 1000
1000cc 4-stroke
2001 Klaus Klaffenböck Christian Parzer LCR-Suzuki GSX-R 1000
2002 Steve Abbott Jamie Biggs Windle-Yamaha EXUP
2003 Steve Webster Paul Woodhead LCR-Suzuki GSX-R 1000
Superside World Cup
2004 Steve Webster Paul Woodhead LCR-Suzuki GSX-R 1000
2005 Tim Reeves Tristan Reeves LCR-Suzuki GSX-R 1000
2006 Tim Reeves Tristan Reeves LCR-Suzuki GSX-R 1000
2007 Tim Reeves Patrick Farrance*** LCR-Suzuki GSX-R 1000
2008 Pekka Päivärinta Timo Karttiala LCR-Suzuki GSX-R 1000
2009 Ben Birchall Tom Birchall LCR-Suzuki GSX-R 1000
Superside Sidecar World Championship
2010 Pekka Päivärinta Adolf Hänni LCR-Suzuki GSX-R1000
2011 Pekka Päivärinta Adolf Hänni LCR-Suzuki GSX-R1000
2012 Tim Reeves Ashley Hawes LCR-Suzuki GSX-R1000
2013 Pekka Päivärinta Adolf Hänni LCR-Suzuki GSX-R1000
2014 Tim Reeves Gregory Cluze LCR-Kawasaki ZX-10R
(F2 World Trophy)
Tim Reeves Gregory Cluze DMR-Honda CBR600
2015 Bennie Streuer Geert Koerts LCR Suzuki GSX-R1000
(F2 World Trophy)
Tim Reeves Patrick Farrance DMR-Honda CBR600
2016 Pekka Päivärinta Kirsi Kainulainen**** LCR-BMW S 1000RR
(F2 World Trophy)
Ben Birchall Tom Birchall LCR-Honda CBR600
600 cc 4-stroke
Ben Birchall Tom Birchall LCR-Yamaha YZF-R6


* Barry Dungworth was a substitute for the injured Emil Hörner in the Isle of Man round. The team finished eighth and received no points.
** After the withdrawal of Michael Krauser GmBH from racing, former employee Auf Der Mauer took over and branded the engines as ADM.
*** Stuart Graham was injured during the practice session of the first round in Schleiz. Patrick Farrance substituted for the race and for the rest of the season.
*** First woman to become an FIM world champion in any discipline.


Werner Schwärzel and Karl Heinz Kleis was the first team to win a race (1974 German GP) using a 2-stroke engine (König), Steve Abbott and Jamie Biggs was the last team to win a race (1999 World Superbike Championship round 8 Brands Hatch) using a 2-stroke engine (Honda).


  1. Historic world championship title for BMW sidecar Duo Pekka Päivärinta/Kirsi Kainulainen BMW Group, 19 September 2017. Retrieved 17 December 2017
  2. 1 2 Louis, Harry (26 March 1953). "Four World's Championships". The Motor Cycle. London: Iliffe & Sons Ltd. 90 (2607): 372–374.
  3. "The Next Stage". The Motor Cycle. London: Iliffe & Sons Ltd. 91 (2621): 24–25. 2 July 1953.
  4. Quantrill, Cyril (10 September 1953). "The Italian G.P.". Motor Cycling. 88 (2276): 560–562.
  5. "Terrific Speeds in Belgian Grand Prix". The Motor Cycle. London: Iliffe & Sons Ltd. 91 (2622): 46–48. 9 July 1953.
  6. Motor Cycle News 5 May 1982, p.7 Jock Taylor in the chair. Worms all the way. "The nickname 'worm' stems from last year's Austrian GP when Biland's first 'worm' wriggled all over the track". Accessed and added 2015-03-03
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