Some five months on since the final round last season at Croft, the ACU-backed British F2 Sidecar Championship begins its 28th running. The top two over the last three years, John Holden – winner in 2009 and 2010, along with Simon Neary, winner last year, have moved to pastures new, so there's a good chance there'll be a new name on the trophy, but equally, one or two 'old' favourites will be out to have a say in matters.
The forum and facebook experts first reckoned it'd be a battle between Ian and Carl Bell, third last year and Carl Fenwick and Mark Sayers, the top newcomers at the TT and fifth in the championship. Ian was champion in 2002 and 2003 and since returning in 2007 with son Carl in the chair, has racked up 10 second places and 8 thirds. Carl and Mark in their first full season together, gained four podiums. However, a few people reserved judgement until Tim Reeves decides on his 2012 race programme.
The three times world champion makes no secret of his desire to win a TT and with the Nick Crowe/Dave Hudspeth backing this year, Tim and passenger Dipash Chauhan will have an excellent chance. Hopefully their preparation for the TT will include doing the British Championship series. Incidentally the only previous winners of the TT double and the British in the same year were the aforementioned Mr Crowe and Mark Cox in 2008. What seems quite certain is over the opening races, there'll be some new faces gaining regular places on the podium and who can tell what effect that'll have on the confidence. Gary Bryan, Roy Hanks, Dave Atkinson and many others will be keen to challenge the armchair experts' opinions.
Add in the new standard engines regulations, plus the Race 2 starting grid will be decided from Race 1 finishing positions and we could have some surprises. Also, wildcard entries can now score points – a change designed to encourage new entrants to do more championship meetings.
The F2 Cup – the championship within the overall series for the less-experienced teams, last year saw a tremendous battle between Fenwick, Atkinson and eventual champion Frank Lelias. All 3 have been 'promoted' to the 'Super F2' category so a new F2 Cup champion is guaranteed. Russ Pearce, Pete Alton and Steve Hicks, all regulars last year will face strong challenges from 'returnees' Dave Lillie, Dean Lindley and Nick Dukes while John Saunders, Dean Nicholls, Mark Saunders and Paul Bateman are making their full championship debut. Good luck to all!
Both championships have not been decided until the final meeting in each of the last five years. Hopefully I'm not tempting fate by suggesting that there's a strong possibility that this sequence will be extended to six years!