The 2021 season bursts into life at Oulton Park over the weekend of June 25-27th with a bumper grid, some new names, but with some notable teams missing.
The FIM World Championship in Hungary claims the attention of Tim Reeves/Kevin Rousseau, reigning British Champion Steve Kershaw/Ryan Charlwood, Kevin Cable and Kyle Masters, and 2019 Champions Todd Ellis/Charlie Richardson. This could well be a case of “when the cat’s away”, but that only makes the excitement and opportunity at Oulton more intense. With two races on the programme at the spectacular Cheshire circuit, there is much to play for.
Heading up the list of protagonists are multiple World Champions and TT winners Ben and Tom Birchall. Their LCR design and manufacturing business tends to keep them at home these days, so they will be gracing the domestic series in 2021. Pressing them for honours, will almost certainly be John Holden and Lewis Blackstock. Both these drivers are regular podium finishers, and Holden has a new passenger this year in the shape of Jason Pitt. He retains the Barnes Racing/Silicone Engineering sponsorship. Blackstock meanwhile has the tried and tested Paddy Rosney alongside and will be looking to improve on his sixth-place finish last year. The Christie brothers Sam and Adam get quietly on with the job, and if last year is anything to go by, they will be at the sharp end from the word go. Third place in the title case behind Kershaw and Ellis was no mean feat. Their Christie Engineering Services Yamaha is always well prepared and noticeably quick.
The third Christie brother Tom is alongside the sole Kawasaki exponent Ben Holland. Ben is revitalised, as keen as ever, and subject to finances holding up, ready to fight for the title.
Another crew certainly capable of upsetting the applecart is the lone Santander Salt team of Rob Biggs and Jeroen Schmitz. They have the added impetus of Yamaha power and assistance from Express Tyres. They will be sharing the new Santander Salt race-truck with Stock 600 contender Jack Nixon.
Other relatively new names include the young guns Tommy Philp/Tom Bryant and George Holden/Oscar Lawrence. Both these crews will be going for maximum points.
F2 star Simon Robinson joins the fray with Mick Fairhurst in the hot seat. This crew will be adapting to a long chassis outfit, so that is another hugely interesting point to look out for.
There is also a complete newcomer to the sidecar ranks. Craig Currie is a former saloon car champion and regular Ducati Tri-Options runner. He knows all there is to know about racing but will now need to apply that track-craft to three wheels. With the experienced Justin Sharp alongside, that job might not be too onerous. Expect also to see Scott Lawrie strutting his stuff with Shelley Smithies alongside.
Other regulars back for more include Andy Peach/Ken Edwards, Phil Bell/James Connell, Rupert Archer/Phil Hyde, and Simon Gilbert/Paul Thomas.
The grid is strong, given there is a clash with an FIM round. There is great strength in depth, and there could be a few surprises in what is bound to be a super weekend to set the ball rolling for 2021.
Media Matters Barry Nutley email@example.com