It’s often said the craziest people in the racing paddock are sidecar passengers, and after attempting it, I reckon they are. How the hell they can passenger around the TT course is unimaginable.
Most would choose a nice slow machine, at a safe track, in the hands of an expert driver for their first go as a passenger, but not today. The Goodwood hillclimb is narrow and wall-lined and the outfit is powered by a BMW S1000RR engine.
And if it couldn’t get any worse I’m entrusting my life in the hands of Michael Neeves, who has no sidecar experience and can’t operate the brakes correctly. What could possibly go wrong?
The team tells me to remove most of my body armour from my leathers and my knee sliders, as they’re too restrictive. I also have to swap my Puma race boots for what can only be described as some oversized leather slippers they’ve lent me.
I’m then given basic instructions on how to move around to make the sidecar stay on the track.
It doesn’t look easy and is much harder than it looks. You have to be an 11-year-old contortionist to get in the right positions. The ‘hold’ handles are tiny and it feels like I’m going to lose my fingers or toes on the move they’re so close to the ground.
You not only have to move from side-to-side smoothly, but front-to-back, to increase and decrease traction to the huge rear slick. I could just sit there and wave to the crowd but it’s not my style – I’m in with both feet.
On the steady run down to the start Neevesy seems to find it hard to keep it in a straight line. I’m getting thrown around like a small puppy on the parcel shelf of a rally car. Never mind moving around, it’s hard enough just to hold on.
From the start Neevesy blips the angry 190bhp BMW motor. I’m bracing myself, with most of my body weight over the rear tyre unaware of what to expect. They say my weight should be right over the rear tyre for traction, but fat chance of that, I’ll be thrown off the back.
We dart off the line quicker than I was expecting, leaving a dark line and smoking the rear tyre. The first corner is a slight right and as I move over, miss the grab handle. My legs flap around like a drowning synchronised swimmer, but I get into the right position just in time.
Crouched down with my knees up behind my ears down the next straight, I’m sure I’ve got this wrong. Neevesy isn’t shy with the throttle and we’re going much quicker than I was expecting – I’m moving around the outfit with the grace of a fat walrus trying to clamber up a wet rock.
Around the next left I hang off as much as I dare, but I’m unsure how close my arse is to the track. Looking back at the pictures it turns out it’s very close.
On the straight past the finish line I count the gears and we are revving high in fourth. I’ve got no idea how fast it’s going but it feels quick.
We get into another speed-wobble as we cross the line and hitting a hay bale looks imminent - from memory they hurt - but we just about get it together and make the end.
I’ve jumped around in the passenger seat with grace of a swan landing on a frozen lake. We may not have been quick or professional but it was fun. My admiration of sidecar drivers and passengers has jumped tenfold. Wow, I love it. When can we have another go?
Thanks to: Roger Body, Burry Nutley and all the BMW Buildbase crew for letting us loose on their sidecar mid-season.