Runner up spot for Brits in Euro Sidecar Grasstrack Showdown! European 500cc Sidecar Grasstrack Final – Race Report and Results
British crew Mitchel Godden and Paul Smith pulled off a best-ever for British crews last Saturday night in Wertle, Germany. They raced to a successful 2nd place in the European Sidecar Final on foreign soil, beaten only by the King of 500cc Sidecar racing, Dutch master William Mattijssen and passenger Sandra Mollema. For William, it was his sixth title and third in a row for him and Sandra, who have a real stranglehold on the sport at present.
Report and Result image by Gareth Bemister
Heading into the final stages of the meeting, Matthijssen/Mollema had only dropped points in one race, finishing 3rd behind Germans Markus Venus/Markus Heiss and Mitch Godden/Paul Smith. Venus had also scored well all evening, only failing to win one race himself. Godden/Smith emerged as 3rd placed points scorers. The final automatic spot for the final was up for grabs heading into the final set of heats.
Former European Champions Josh Goodwin and Liam Brown rode a fantastic race to win their pressure-filled final heat, confirming their spot in the A Final. Goodwin/Brown had never fallen out of the top 3, but it wasn’t until their final heat that they tasted victory, seeing them safely into the winner-take-all final. For the others, the repercharge-style B Final beckoned.
Other British hopefuls Shaun Harvey/Danny Hogg and Dan Berwick/Mark Hopkins had ridden well enough throughout the evening to take a spot in the B Final. Harvey/Hogg’s 2nd place in their final ride behind Goodwin/Brown was their best ride of the evening. In the B Final, however, it was the home-grown crews who dominated. Manuel Meier/Melanie Schrempp won the final, securing the 5th spot in the final, and they were backed up but their countrymen Raphael San Milan and passenger Benedikt Zapf. Danish crew Mike Fredricksen/Steven Grandt finished 3rd, almost squeezing a rare final spot for a Scandinavian crew. The final British representation came from Barrie Bennett/Eifion Hughes, who headed to Wertle as reserves, but were rewarded for their efforts by getting a full evening’s racing, replacing Wilfred Detz/Wendy Arling. Bennett/Hughes rode well all evening and were always in the mix. They narrowly missed out on a place in the B Final by just one solitary point.
In the A Final, despite their performance in the final heat, the question was whether anyone could catch Matthijssen/Mollema. As they six outfits negotiated the first bend, it was Matthijssen/Mollema who led exiting the turn. Godden/Smith had made a decent start, opted for a wide line and picked up second coming down the back straight, whilst Germans Venus/Heiss had slotted into 3rd. Try as they might, Goodwin/Brown couldn’t get back on terms with the front three as conditions became tricky due to the dry conditions. And that’s how they finished. Another triumphant European title for William Matthijssen and Sandra Mollema, and an historic runners-up spot for Mitch Godden and Paul Smith- the best ever finish by a British crew on foreign soil. It’s been many years since a man named Godden stood on a European final podium- the very first European Solo Final in 1978 saw Don Godden finish 3rd. 40 years later, Mitch goes one better, albeit with the help of Paul Smith and a third wheel!
More British joy was to be had in the solo support class, as British Masters Champion James Shanes raced to an emphatic win on German soil. His near perfect glide through the heats was only scuppered in one race, where he was defeated by another Brit in great form on the continent- Andrew Appleton. In the final, German former European Champ Stephan Katt got between the two Brits in what was a former European Champion top three. Once again, British riders were showing themselves to be world beaters on foreign soil.