In The Blood…

David Fearnhead speaks to George Holden, a second-generation championship winning sidecar racer from Clitheroe, who will be competing in the 2022 British Championships

On a high plateau in Derbyshire, amongst the traditional patchwork of the English countryside, a mystical triangle cuts its large way through the landscape. Darley Moor is no ancient relic left by the druids. Fly a little closer to the ground and its features become more visible. The top of the triangle forms the loop of a hairpin and then are chicanes and ripple strips. The WWII airfield was converted into a racetrack in 1965, and it holds a special significance for one Ribble Valley racer.

George Holden is the son of double Isle of Man TT sidecar winner John Holden. Having spent a childhood following his father around the British racing calendar and then helping out as a mechanic, the moment finally came when Holden senior could look across the grid and see his son lined up alongside him.

“It was a special moment for the both of us,” 28-year-old George Holden recalls. “I knew I wouldn’t beat him – he was on for the win. Having supported him for so long, it was just a pleasure to be racing against him.”

That was 2019. It would take another two years before he finally chalked his first win over the man who’d inspired him to race. At Cadwell Park the two Holdens had battled it out with the son claiming a narrow victory having caught and passed his father on a rain-soaked track.

Touchingly, George reveals that although his father, must have been a bit gutted to lose such a tight race he didn’t show it: “He was happy for me and told me how proud he was.

“It’s a fantastic benchmark to have. My dad’s always been there or thereabouts in races. So if I can get anywhere near to what he’s achieved then I’m happy. We don’t keep a tally against each other, but it’s only a small number of times that I’ve beaten him.”

The sporting and literary world is full of father pitted against son drama. The young pretender to the crown, the belligerent father who feels threatened by his own blood. There is none of that with the Holden family. Here, the father/son dynamic remains unchanged. “He won’t hold anything back from me thinking we are the competition. He’ll do anything to help me and vice versa. Even though we are in different teams with different sponsors, we work as a team as well.”

George’s respect for his father is evident. When looking for heroes he didn’t have to look far. Now he’s on his own journey to succeed in the racing world and maintain the family’s association with sidecar racing. Even George’s girlfriend, Sarah Stokoe, competes. Predictably they met through racing.

Both John and George are drivers. The other half of a sidecar team is known ironically as the ‘passenger’. They are anything but. Even George admits he’s not daft enough to do it. They are the ones who throw themselves over the bodywork in an effort to improve grip around the corners – hanging perilously, just inches above the tarmac.

George’s passenger is Oscar Lawrence, whose father was also a British Champion. The two have formed a close bond having competed as a team for the past two years. Having won the prestigious Bemsee Club Championship in 2020, the duo now compete in the British F1 Sidecar Championships against the best teams in the country.

“I was really lucky. We both started racing around the same time, though he was 17. He’s only 19 now, fit as anything, and really keen to do well. He’s also become a good friend.”

Whilst Oscar goes half on the fuel and entry costs, the rest of the budget for running the bike falls on George. To be competitive it can cost around £32,000 a season and he’s reliant on local sponsors to help keep the team going.

“Ian Barnes has helped me more than anyone. Also John Cable, David Johnson Builders, Simon Gill from Barrowbridge Construction and Bill Townson from Townson Tractors. I’d like to thank my dad and Fi, Sarah, Rick and all my team too. And I’d love to find more people who want to be involved and join the team.”

Far from being a charitable endeavour, sponsoring a sidecar team is actually a clever bit of marketing. The British Championship George competes in is run alongside the British Superbikes, which can attract crowds of 50,000 and reaches a TV audience in the hundreds of thousands via Eurosport.

“It’s Formula One on three wheels,” says George. “Unlike the bikes where it’s hard to see sponsors we are more like billboards.”

Though admittedly billboards that regularly reach speeds of 140mph.

Anyone interested in becoming a sponsor of Holden Racing or to learn more about the team can visit their social media pages 




Tedd Walmsley

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Tedd Walmsley managing director of Live Magazines shares his views on the latest topics in media.

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