There are two men who you can blame all this minimoto and sidecar nonsense on - Tony Hemming and Neil Matthews. They have both played a significant role in the history of Minimoto. Between them they introduced the UK to the world of Minimoto and more importantly, came up with the concept of [minimoto] sidecar racing that you see today.
It all first started as a bit of a gimmic when Tony Hemming, the sole imported of the original Efco minimotos, got hold of an Efco powered sidecar. This had the same engine in as the current Paul Godward Trophy bikes you still see today - a 40cc 2.5-3hp strimmer engine.
Over a period of time a few more outfits sprang up at our little meetings of around 10 - 15 riders and we started racing.
At one point Tony Hemming shoehorned two Efco engines in to one chassis, which made for an interesting ride. It was fine when the two motors were running roughly in sync', but when they got out of sync' - boy did it vibrate. This development, however impractical made people begin to ponder.
The natural progression was to fit the super engines that were found in the ZPF and Polini minibikes at the time. This offered much faster and more interesting racing. The newly developed power, and more options for tuning gave the class a new lease of life. Although slow to take off, everything eventually moved over to the newly found power plant.
Around the time of migrating to the super engines, a team turned up consisting of a set of lads from Leeds. They had seen us racing and decided to make their own chassis... this was Team OLF. They came along with outfits that they had managed to fit Honda Cub 90 motors in, with the direct drive to the rear wheel. A very self sufficient team, who even cast their own aluminium hub that would accomodate the Cub's drive. This gave a whole new outlook on the sidecars - gears.
Initially they were to remain in a fixed gear to make it roughly equal with the ZPF and Polini powered sidecars, but the thought of gears got a few people to put their thinking heads on. This is where Neil, who had been racing a sidecar with his son Graham, came into play. He had been turning out chassis' from his workshop for some time to enable people to build their own outfit to go racing.
Neil dedicated a huge part of his life to the sport, and even formed the MMRA (Minimoto Racing Association of GB) that you see today. After a bit (lot) of debating, scribbled plans, telephone calls and beer, a Yamaha RD80 engine was sourced and fitted in to an existing chassis. A tube chopped here, handles altered there and an ingenious gear linkage system later, an RD propelled outfit was blatting up and down the yard. It was unveiled at Kinsham, Powys during the final round that year of the MMRA. Due to the gear linkage being backwards to a normal bike it took a bit of getting used to. Once you had the hang though, wow was it fun - everyone wanted a go. And so, the Neiler Sidecar was born...
This is where you see the classes today, running 80cc 2 stroke and 200cc 4 stroke motors. There have been some major progressions over the last few years including the splitting of the class to form the F1 and F2's. The introduction of larger capacity engines and home-made frames that support an adjustable chassis length have all played a part in how the class has developed.
The next move forward has been designed and developed by Tamzine Hanks and her team. Following on from the family success of large sidecars, they have taken our sport and turned it on its head. Years of sidecar knowledge have enabled them to develop a machine that really does the business - with a radically redesigned chassis that actaully steers around corners, and styling that makes it look as good as it goes.
This brings us to present day, near to the end of the 2004 season. 2005 is set to be an interesting season, no doubt with even more new developments from every team in the paddock and more new faces to welcome in to the group. I hope this little outburst gives both new and old faces to the sport a bit of history and insight to how things developed.
By Phil Mapplebeck - Racing too many years to remember.