Steve E here, apologies with the delays recently, I've been away since the end of the season getting a proper break.. we're back now!
Maria Costello MBE made her long awaited sidecar debut, when she competed in the Auto 66 'Sidecar Bash' at Cadwell Park 22-23 October.
The Northamptonshire racer, who has enjoyed a sensational year on two wheels, raced to three successful finishes in the Dave De Mott built Formula 2 sidecar, with passenger Harry Payne. Their fourth race brought an early conclusion to the weekend after hitting a tyre wall, whilst on course for their best finish of the event.
Costello was experiencing an F2 outfit for the first time alongside her experienced passenger, Harry Payne. Improving and building with each and every lap of the 2.1 mile circuit, she was enjoying the new challenge of learning to race on three wheels. Saturday's two races saw the pair finish in 15th and 17th place respectively, while Sunday's first race saw them 14th on a track with mixed conditions due to heavy overnight rain.
It was in their fourth and final race of the weekend, whilst running in 8th place and lapping in under two minutes, when coming out of the Hall Bends section on a greasy track, the chair wheel slid and the sidecar clipped a kerb and went up in the air. With no run off at this part of the circuit and despite their best efforts to control and rectify the situation, they ran out of track and hit the tyre wall. Fortunately, they both only suffered bruising and were able to walk out of the medical centre.
Costello said: "It was still a fantastic weekend, of course I'm gutted with how it ended but I'm not deterred, it's been a big but rewarding challenge and I've loved it. I'm keen to keep progressing, I'm just hugely sorry to Dave for damaging his beautiful DDM outfit and for throwing my passenger down the road. So glad we were only a bit battered and bruised. The experience has been incredible, it's proof that it's never too late to try something new and I really would like to pursue a career on three wheels more seriously. I can't thank everyone, who played a part in making this happen, especially Harry, enough!"
Dave De Mott, designer and builder of DDM Sidecars, added: "It was a total pleasure to have Maria driving my DDM, I was seriously impressed with her performance and approach to something so new and I would very much like to help her in the future if she decided to more on sidecars."
Payne, who has experience of both Formula 1 and Formula 2 at British Championship level, admitted that the pair were 'a bit brave' to go straight into a race meeting with no testing.
"We started off with a wet qualifying (4 or 5 laps at most) then straight into the first race, so Maria's first time driving the DDM in the dry was a race," he said. "She did really well, adjusting to sidecar braking points/gear changes/lines. We came away with 15th in the first of the four 'B' races. Over the course of the weekend, we managed to shave about 11 seconds off her lap time."
"It was such a shame to end a great weekend like that, but these things happen in racing as we all know. I think I must have flown some way down the track while Maria was caught up with the bike. Luckily, we were both up and okay with just a bit of a limp and a sore back for myself, and a swollen arm and sore shoulder for Maria. But I had a great time and I do believe we will be back for more."
Costello said that she hopes to secure sponsorship to continue her fledgling sidecar career. "I've wanted to race sidecars for a while now and this has affirmed my desire to do that and one day I would love to ride both solos and a sidecar at the TT."
Payne & Costello added: "Special thanks to Tracey Crane and Deb Mushet for keeping us fed and watered all weekend, Samantha Tilley for supplying a pair of Daytona boots for Maria, Kev Corbally on the spanners and providing entertainment, John Mushet for travelling down to do the report for us, Greg Payne, Nancy Thomas and Dirk Wharton for their support, and finally, Mr Dave Demott for trusting us with his amazing bike!"
Maria has a very different weekend planned next, when she will join Susie Wolff at a Dare to be Different event at Mercedes Benz World in Brooklands, for 100 community members, where she will be part of a panel of speakers hoping to help drive female talent.
To watch the recent footage of Maria testing an F1 sidecar, check out the Bike World TV coverage here.
For updates on Maria's racing, future events and sponsorship opportunities, please visit her website, which can be found here.