Steve Jones has been involved with the Weston Beach Race pretty much since it started 37 years ago. His father was a scrutineer at the very first event, as he was part of the Frome Club in Somerset, local to the race, which supported the WBR with manpower in its early years. Having competed in the event many times aboard a solo bike and in recent years on a sidecar with his brother, Jones explains his passion for sidecar racing and why he can’t wait for the 2019 Weston Beach Race on October 18-20 in Weston-Super-Mare.
“I rode a solo bike for over 20 years and raced quite a few times at Weston on it, but I always had an interest in sidecars. I started racing a sidecar seriously about six years ago. I race with my brother Rob – he passengers for me – it’s debatable who has the best job though (laughs). We do the British Clubman Championship and select British Sidecar Championship rounds. The bike we use for Weston is just for that specific race. It’s an old bike, because obviously it’s quite a specialist thing and it’s important to have a bike properly prepared for the conditions of Weston. We race about 12 times a year, and then do Weston to finish our season off,”said Jones.
Jones explains it’s the challenge of the Weston Beach Race on a sidecar that excites him. A three-hour battle of man and machine where anything can happen, it’s the thrills and spills that the race is renowned for that keeps Jones and his brother coming back each year. A lot of the enjoyment also comes from building a sidecar bike that began as a pile of parts in a box, with no engine, which means it’s really their bike built from the ground up. Jones says to take something that was basically scrap, put it together and finish a three-hour beach race is quite an achievement. Some of the sidecar racers are quite competitive, but for Steve and his brother it is much more than that – and with the added excitement of taking the race on as a team, rather than a solo rider.
“It’s special because it’s a shared experience; I raced solos for years and I’ve done Weston a fair few times – at the end nobody really cares about what has happened to you. You talk to people, your friends, family etc, but they aren’t really interested. On a sidecar you’ve got that shared experience. You’ve both been through the same ordeal and you can talk about it for weeks or even months afterwards. We’ve already started building our bike for this year,” said Jones.
“Some of the sidecar racers are super competitive, but for us it’s more about the adventure of it. If you’re worrying about the result you’ve almost missed the point. It’s about being there and being part of it. I guess to people looking in from the outside the sidecar people must look a little bit crazy, and in certain respects we are, but on the other hand we are very passionate about it. We just want to keep the spirit of the Weston Beach Race alive – it’s a unique event, it’s quite quirky in itself and then the sidecars take that to another level.”
For those considering a go at racing sidecars, which can be seen battling the mammoth dunes and with real comradery between rider and passenger, Jones explains it isn’t so easy to get into initially, mostly because finding a bike is a challenge. He says to check eBay as they do appear at this time of year, and he certainly would recommend it to anyone to try sidecar racing if they can get a bike. For practice Jones says that smaller tracks do often allow sidecars, although the bigger ones sometimes don’t – it’s best to contact them first.
“More often than not you would buy a frame kit – there’s four or five frame manufacturers, and you pick whichever engine you want. It has to be a fairly big engine – there are a few purpose-built sidecar engines, but they tend to be very expensive. People often use a Honda CR 500 or a Kawasaki KX 500, or a big KTM fourstroke,”said Jones.
“Sidecars are very different to riding a normal bike, and you’d want to be well-practiced in using one before racing Weston because just making one go in a straight line is a bit of an artform, never mind getting them over the big sand dunes. A lot of the steering is done with the throttle, so as you accelerate it helps you turn. Just going up the start straight in a straight line can be a challenge. But it is a lot of fun.”
Asked about the goals for 2019 and Steve said “Our goal is to go there, get six or seven laps and to finish. If we do that, then that’s awesome. If it ends up being three laps and we finish then that’s all good, if we break down and we don’t finish then that will be quite disappointing.”
We’d like to wish Steve and his brother good luck in the bike build, and we’ll be bringing you an insightful story from their workshop soon!
For more information about the Weston Beach Race visit www.westonbeachrace.com