"I Don't Play What I Can't Win"



Steve Kershaw on Team Quattro’s potential at the World Sidecar Championship

Quattro-sponsored reigning Formula One British Sidecar Champion, Steve Kershaw, 34, is already making waves after taking a win yesterday at Donington Park with Sidecar teammate Ryan Charlwood. Team Quattro now sits in 5th place in the standings and ‘Stealth’ Kershaw seems ready for anything, including more podium positions.
Describing his style of driving as both cautious and strategic, Kershaw has one eye on his performance and the other on that of his rivals: ‘I wouldn’t be in it if I didn’t think I could be world champion’, he adds, ‘Every competitor is very impressive; we all have a chance of winning’. With a mother and father Kershaw team behind him, number 29 is carrying the family tradition right through to his four year old son Niall, who is already on a bike, competing with his dad. ‘I’m teaching Niall how to win and how to lose.  Like me, he doesn’t like losing.  Racing is in our blood.’

Kershaw has a very sharp focus and a highly refined competitive streak; and appears as driven as the 165mph machine he sped in on: ‘The bike is never fast enough when there is someone in front of you’, he says, ‘I never give up.’  

We caught up with him as his mind raced towards to the familiar sight of the Assen circuit.  

How are you feeling after your win at Donington?

I am still buzzing.  Donington is home ground for us. On Saturday we got took out on the first corner but on Sunday it just clicked, it all came together, I wanted to lay my marker down to the rest of them to say we’re here to win.  Ruffle a few feathers!  We’re off to Holland in 3 weeks, and I know the track well.

The World Championship brings new challenges, do you really believe you can win?

Yes.  We never give up. I wouldn’t sacrifice the precious family time if I didn’t feel I could be world champion.  It’s a Grand Prix race, lots more to learn, managing the tires and so on. Hungary was 37 degrees, so there’s the heat too; whilst it’s my learning year, I’m still there to compete.  The Donington win has put up to 5th, only 30 points behind 3rd, which is a medal.

You’ve had a hard start to the World Championship.  Tell us about it.

It has been a really hard start to the year.  We made really good pace in France, then in Hungary last weekend we had crazy little problems; I snapped the chain, I’ve never done that!  Fifteen years that has never happened.  We fixed it and got out and scored some points.  

From the other riders, who do you feel is your strongest competition?

All of the top 6 are super competitive!  It’s lap recording breaking pace at every track!  So really any of them - and there are several world and British titles amongst them - can win, but that includes us.

Tell us about some of your highlights of your racing career to date.

In 2017 I was runner up at the British Sidecar championship.  Then in 2018 I won, I was overcome with emotion.  I had wanted it my whole life and we dominated that year.  My Mum, Dad, wife and my little boy were all there.
We were all a blubbering mess, bawling our eyes out.  I have a collage at home and the centre picture is the whole family together.  In 2019 I was runner up.  There had been rule changes affecting the bike and engines.  We came in as reigning champs but were the underdogs as other teams had made the quick jump within the new rules. I was gutted but you have to take your hat off to the winner. In 2020 I won it again, which was epic.  That’s the year when Ryan introduced me to John Murphy at Quattro.  I went to see him with Ryan and I he said ‘What do you think you can do in the British Championship?’ I said, ‘We’re going to win’.  John loves the sidecars.  We had three or four hours with him and he grilled me, we had a really good laugh.  He said he would come on board and help us out in that first year.  I took to him very quickly.  He’s so down to earth with everything, and the way he talks to people, I think it’s great.  I said, ‘I want to do the world championship, I want to win it, I want to be world champion’, and he respected that.  We won the British Championship then met again at Brands Hatch.  John said, ‘Well I cant take the piss out of you now cos you said what you were going to do and you did it!’  I presented my vision for the world championship, the Quattro bike, a Quattro machine, the Quattro sidecar.   John has a great passion and knowledge of the sport so he got right behind us and into the Quattro colours.

How did you get into sidecars?

It’s been a family thing.  My mum and dad raced sidecars.  Mum ended up the passenger, but neither she nor my dad wanted to be the passenger, ‘You do it!  No, you do it!’ they’d shout.  Me and my brother used to go watch racing every weekend.  It’s in the blood!  My dad is still hot on the spanners.  He will strip the bike and do the oil change even now.

When did you first drive a sidecar?

I first drove off road in an old Triumph when I was eleven.  It was great; I loved it immediately.  I wanted to go out on it every weekend in our five-acre field.  My brother was passenger for me. I just kept riding it; I loved it instantly.  I knew it was always going to be in my future.  As soon as I was big enough, I wanted to do it.

What’s the significance of number 29?

It’s my family’s race number.  My dad picked it; it has been my race number my whole career.  29 is our number.  My son was born on 29/9, and we named him Niall, which is Irish for champion!  He’s now on a bike, flying round a field.  My heart is in my mouth!  I say to my mum ‘Is this what you put up with?’

Tell us about the partnership with Ryan, and why it works.

Ryan is incredible.  When he was riding with his former driver and I was riding with Stuart we had some proper battles with Ryan, in close quarters, at the same speed.  I could see that Ryan never got flustered and a driver can put another passenger under pressure to make mistakes.  I was aware of that skill. He knew me as not a wild rider.  I think about everything.  When I get there I can maintain it and stay in control.

Who is in charge when you’re both in a race?  

Ha ha!  I’m in charge but Ryan tells me if I’m not performing well enough when a race is over.  He’ll say when it was right to pass someone, when it wasn’t, go faster here, break later here, go deeper here.  We work together.  We get off the bike and debrief after every race.  

It’s an incredibly dangerous sport, how reliant are you on each other to stay safe?

You’ve got to trust your team mate with your life and that’s the bottom line.  
Sidecar racing is very extreme, Ryan could fall off at any time.  If he falls out and I don’t realise, I can’t see him or feel him. The passenger is unbelievably brave.

How do you communicate ‘as one’ to make the machine go as fast as possible?

The whole point is that two people have to work together without communicating.  The buzz is being able to work with another human to make the machine go round the track as fast as possible.  I enjoy being able to share the experience, both of getting that together.

There must be a high amount of intuition involved.

Yes.  Ryan’s got to work out what I need and when I need it.  His bodyweight is crucial, every corner he has to be thinking and watching how my shoulders move and the position of the front of the bike. He’s helping me turn that bike and that’s what separates the good from the great passengers, they steer the bike, it’s a fine line.  Every corner hangs in the balance.  Left to right is a massive change, fighting the g-force.  You’ve got to work with the force, move as you break, not fighting an acceleration.  It’s full commitment.

How fast is your sidecar?

The fastest is 165 miles an hour, and we travel at 140 miles an hour.  You’re so low to the ground, when you’re racing it’s incredibly quick, but it’s never fast enough if there’s somebody in front of you.  

Are you as competitive in other areas of your life?

I don’t play what I can’t win.  I won’t play Monopoly because my wife will beat me!  I can take losing but I hate it.  My boy is the spit of me; he’s a terrible loser it’s actually funny.  He gets a big strop on!

Steve Kershaw lives in Lauder, Scotland, with his wife Rhea, and sons Niall, 4 and Owen, 2.  He is the reigning Formula One British Sidecar Champion and is joint five time record winner of the Jock Taylor trophy.  ‘I don’t need another British trophy’, he says, definitively.  ‘I’ve won it twice, I don’t need three or four.  Ryan is a triple British champion.  We’re only interested in the World Championship now.’

The next race is July 23-25 at Assen in Holland where Kershaw and Charlwood are poised to improve on their position.

‘We have every faith in Steve and Ryan, especially after yesterday’s win’, says John Murphy, Quattro MD.  ‘Team Quattro is coming for the World Championship… expect us!’



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