In a vast majority of two-wheeler motorsports, championship wins are achieved solo, aside from the Nations, Teams and ISDE. But a few specific championships stand out by virtue of the direct relation between several riders and one motorcycle. In such a situation, winning is no longer just a personal matter; instead, riders depend on their partners and their performances. They are not masters of their own destinies.
The 2016-2017 FIM Endurance World Champions David Checa and Niccolò Canepa won 3 of 5 out of the season’s races, along with latecomer team-mate Mike di Meglio. Victory in this category goes beyond winning the race. For three different riders to be able to mount one single motorcycle, the settings must be universal and inclusive for all sizes and driving styles. A compromise has to be found, as there is very little time when riders come in to change places at the stand in just a few seconds. Furthermore, if the rider on the circuit ends up off-track, not only does he disqualify himself but he also penalises his fellow team-mates, helpless in the stands. Disappointment and anger are shared in an Endurance event but so are joy and triumph. The long hours on the track put the riders’ bodies to the test. They can make them ache and hurt, but in the end they tie bonds between the riders even tighter.
Whilst Endurance is all about three riders alternating on one motorcycle, Sidecar and Sidecar Motocross put both rider and passenger on the same bike all along. It all comes down to team-work: a passenger cannot win without a rider (obviously) but a rider cannot win a race without his passenger on board. Curbs are very complicated to negotiate with a sidecar. In order to pull off such technical manoeuvres, passengers have to put all their weight on either side of the machine, holding on by just a thread, playing with the boundaries of what is possible. This year’s FIM Sidecar Motocross World Champions are rider Etienne Bax and passenger Nicolas Musset. With a superb start to the season and a fantastic end of season comeback, the Franco-Dutch pair won their first FIM World Championship together as well as their last, the physical distance separating the two men’s home bases being sadly too great an obstacle.
Distance is less of a problem for FIM Sidecar World Champions, Birchall brothers Ben and Tom. Because trust and a perfect feeling for the partner’s movements are crucial during the race, the family link is definitely a big plus for both siblings. Mastering all their races except the final gold race, the Birchalls showed a perfect symbiosis throughout the entire season, combining their talents to form an ideal duo and allowing them to oust 2016 champions Pekka Paivarinta and Kirsi Kainulainen. After this second World Title since 2009, rider Ben and passenger Tom will surely defend their title once again with the same vigour shared this season.