Sidecar duo driven at worlds

DICING WITH DIRT: Swinger Philippa Burns hanging on for dear life as husband Andrew Buchanan steers their sidecar around a track.
DICING WITH DIRT: Swinger Philippa Burns hanging on for dear life as husband Andrew Buchanan steers their sidecar around a track.

When Philippa Burns tried swinging for the first time, she had to go out and sit in the car for an hour to get over it.

Now four years down the track, she and husband Andrew Buchanan will be racing one of the New Zealand sidecars at the FIM Speedway Sidecar 1000cc World Championships in South Australia on Saturday night.

They started together when both were 39, and she admitted it "was extra frightening". No39 is the number of their bike.

The swinger hangs on only centimetres above the speedway track at speeds up to 110kmh along the straights. Burns has had her share of spills.

"I have learned to relax and roll," she said. "You usually fall on the corners where you're still going 80- to 90kmh."

She is nursing a broken wrist but that will not stop her riding at the world championships at the rural river town of Murray Bridge, south of Adelaide. They have spent $20,000 on travel alone this year, competing since September in Australia.

Her injury happened in Townsville, north Queensland.

"Another bike came underneath us and my elbow hit the ground. I knew the wrist was broken."

She was mortified. It was five weeks out from the world championships, after training for them for six months and spending thousands of dollars. They had run second in the Queensland championships.

The wrist is now in better shape and she has just had the plaster taken off. She will put it back on when racing.

Burns runs an engineering business in Palmerston North, has four kids to care for and a farm to run.

Buchanan is an engineer who works in Auckland for Carter Holt Harvey from Monday to Friday.

New Zealand was allocated four spots at the world championships and when one of the six English sidecars withdrew, a fifth New Zealand spot was offered and Palmerston North's Paul Humphrey and Ben Franklin took it up. Palmerston North's Tony Hislop is the team manager.

Burns and Buchanan had to qualify at a meeting at Auckland's Rosebank track in January. The bike was shipped to Australia in August.

This is the first year they have not had to build their own bike.

And their chances against the best from Australia and England: "As good as any in the top four," she said.

"An Australian will be the hardest to beat and there's only one we haven't beaten on their circuits."

One they have to get past is the world champion, Mick Headland. But he will be racing on his home track at Murray Bridge Speedway, a banked, clay track so foreign to the Kiwis.

Manawatu Standard