2021 Points Leader Profile: Michael Vinten Takes Pride in the Unique While Chasing Sidecar Title
For Michael Vinten, racing sidecars has been a part of his life for as long as he can remember. Beginning racing motorcycles in the 80s, Vinten transitioned to sidecars in 2010 after catching the bug that usually gets planted in passengers. He races both modern and vintage sidecars and is the president of the Vintage Road Racing Association (VRRA).
“I started racing motorcycles back in 1986,” Vinten said. “It was about 11 years ago, in 2010, when I got to be a passenger in a sidecar for the first time. Someone had needed a passenger in Sunday’s race, and I said yes. I was a passenger for two years, then a bought my own sidecar. After another two years, my driver hurt himself and he said I was driving the next year, in 2014.”
Ripping off three wins in his class this season, Vinten sits poised to claim the Sidecar title after coming up one spot short a year ago. It’s been a dream year for Vinten and his No.19 team, battling hard with the likes of Wayne Walsh and Russ Miller, Vinten set out to achieve many goals this season and is incredibly close to checking them all off.
The big one, however, was finally defeating Russ Miller on speed during race two on the Nelson track.
“It’s been an amazing season so far,” Vinten added. “We’ve had amazing reliability and at the last round I finally was able to beat my arch-rival, Russ Miller. I beat him on the track which is a pretty incredible thing, and it feels really nice.”
In sidecar racing, being a good driver is nothing without a good co-pilot. What most fans see is the “Monkey” as they are called, slinging themselves all around the place to keep the car stable. They do more than we think, as without them there is no way the driver can do what they do. Every year, trial runs as a passenger are organized during a VRRA race weekend. It is a very unique, fun and very memorable experience.
“The Co-Pilot is a really key role in keeping the car stable and keeping it in traction,” Vinten said. “They are moving their weight forward and back, which most people don’t see as they mainly see the side-to-side movements. It’s an amazing feeling as you feel part of the team, a good driver can’t do what they do without a good passenger.”
Vinten’s co-pilot is Celeste Atkinson. A graduate of the sidecar academy, Atkinson excelled almost immediately as a passenger and proved to Vinten that she was a natural talent. After impressing during an event at CTMP, Atkinson and Vinten paired up in 2019 and became, in an instant, a dream team.
Despite not scoring any wins last year, this season has been a different story. Atkinson and Vinten have gotten to a point where they work completely in sync. Vinten doesn’t even have to worry about Atkinson during the race, as he knows, she is doing what she has to do.
“I first met Celeste during a sidecar school which I had taught for about eight years,” Vinten explains. “At the time I didn’t need a passenger, she completed the school and did very well. In 2019, my sidecar was being used by Russ Miller and he needed a passenger for Mosport, so we called her. After that, when my passenger retired, I asked Celeste to be my passenger and she said yes. She has been doing very well ever since. We’ve actually gotten to the point where I don’t even worry about anything when we race, she is always in the right spot.”
A sidecar championship would mean the world to Michael Vinten, in more ways than one. A championship is won over the course of a season, not over the course of one weekend. The preparations behind the scenes are that much more important when all things are considered. Being the best takes a lot of effort, and to be rewarded for it is the best feeling in the world.
“It would mean two things,” He added. “One, that we prepared properly and that we were reliable all season. Two, that my driving and our teamwork were good or better than anyone else.”
Sidecars are unique and Sidecars are different, but the one thing that can be said is that you have to be a little crazy and very passionate to get behind the wheel. For Vinten and the other sidecar racers, sidecar racing is the best form of motorsport. They love every second of it and wouldn’t trade it for anything else.