Five years since he was last victorious, Kent’s Tim Reeves was back on top of the world on Sunday evening when two podium finishes at Estoril in Portugal saw him and passenger Mark Wilkes claim the 2019 World Sidecar Championship.
Following on from his championship success in 2005-2007, 2012 and 2014, it was Reeves’ sixth world title to go alongside the two World Cups previously won whilst Wilkes was finally able to take his first world title.
Victory on the Berlin Express-backed Adolf RS Yamaha also meant it was the first world title won by a non-LCR outfit since 2002 and the championship success went some way to ease the pain from last year when retirement at the last round denied them the title.
Aided by wins in Hungary, Germany, Holland and Croatia, the duo came into the event with a 12-point lead over season long rivals and reigning World Champions Ben and Tom Birchall although rain in qualifying added another twist to proceedings.
However, undeterred by the weather Tim and Mark claimed pole position and with Saturday’s 10-lap ‘Sprint’ race starting in similar conditions, they followed the decision of both the Birchalls and Finnish pairing Pekka Paivarinta/Jussi Veravainen to fit full wet tyres, the latter also still in contention for the world title.
There was little to choose between Reeves/Wilkes and the Birchalls for much of the race and although Kees Endeveld/Jeroen Remme closed in rapidly in the closing stages as their dry tyres started to come into their own, they duly held on to take their fifth win of the season and extend their championship lead to 17 points with just Sunday’s 17-lap Gold Cup race to go.
Safe in the knowledge eighth was all they needed to take the title, Tim and Mark were equally aware that things could still go wrong as they had done the previous season but good, sunny conditions helped their cause and they quickly settled into the second place behind the Birchalls.
The latter stretched their lead as Tim concentrated on taking a good, solid finish but when the Birchalls were forced to retire they found themselves in the lead with Paivarinta/Veravainen breathing down their neck. Resisting the temptation of getting embroiled in a battle for the victory, Tim wisely opted to settle for the second place and they crossed the line in the runners-up spot to clinch the World Championship in style.
With five wins and four second place finishes from the ten races, Tim and Mark ended the season with 205 points and with a comfortable advantage of 32 points over Paivarinta/Veravainen whose final race victory saw them overhaul the Birchalls for second in the final championship standings.
“I’m chuffed to bits to finally get my hands back on the World Championship and apart from one DNF, it’s been a faultless season,” said Reeves.
“Right from the word go, I felt really strong and as soon as we took our first win in the second round in Hungary, I felt that we were the team to beat. Having said that, I knew every race would be tough as Ben and Pekka are extremely strong at every circuit and all of the races were hard fought so to end the year with five wins and four more podiums is great.”
“I would have loved to have ended the year with two wins but there wasn’t any point in risking anything in Sunday’s second race so took the second place.
“Ben and Tom had opened up quite a sizeable lead and I wasn’t totally aware that they’d gone out so when Pekka came by it gave me something to focus on and I brought the bike home to start the celebrations.
“It was a completely new chassis for us this season but it was faultless and the whole team have been superb all year so a special thank you to everyone involved especially Jurgen Roder from Berlin Express, Adrian Kornas, H&S Contractors, DFDS Seaways, Collett Wealth Management, SSD Stainless Steel Design, MJW, Rock Oil, LA Marketing, Potters Home Digital, Pluckley Coachworks, SWT Vehicle Logistics, Pagid Brakes, Shock Factory, Ian Bell Motorcycles, Arai Europe and Wintex.”