EASINGWOLD'S sidecar superstar Steve Webster and passenger Paul Woodhead have taken the 2003 Sidecar World Championship title.

A careful fifth place at Magny Cours, France, was enough for Webster to lift the title he last took in 2000.

It was his ninth world crown and second with Paul Woodhead as passenger, and extends his record and reputation as the most successful ever sidecar racer in the history of the sport.

Going into the last race the Team Castrol Suzuki pair just needed a single point to clinch the series and the fifth place and 11 points gained left them wining the series by 19 points from Klaus Klaffenbock and Christian Parzer.

The race win went to the season's most improved rider, and Webster's main rival-to-be, Jorg Steinhausen, son of 1975/6 world champion Rolf Steinhausen.

Once more Webster and Woodhead had qualified on pole position, for an utterly incredible 27th consecutive time, a record never even approached by any other.

A delighted Webster said: "We had two plans before the race. Plan A: Get pole, get a good start and clear off.

"Plan B: Stay out of the way. As I made a mess of the start, Plan A was binned before the end of the first lap. I still get nervous and I guess that played a part in the start."

Finding himself down in tenth at the end of lap one, Webster carefully picked his way through the field before settling for a lonesome ride around to fifth place.

"I thought about having a go, but we just didn't need to do it. I was close to Steve Abbott (who finished second) at one stage, but I knew he'd never let us past without a fight and it would've been too easy to end up in the gravel traps.

"And I was getting showered with stones from his back wheel and I realised we could easily get a holed radiator or something so I thought, just back off, be sensible!"

Passenger Woodhead was overjoyed: "It feels better than when we won it in 2000 - but it hasn't really sunk in yet - I expect it will tomorrow with the hangover though."

Fact file:

Steve Webster has been racing sidecars for 21 seasons

Saturday's victory in France extended Webster's record of world titles to nine.

His first came back 1987, 88 and 89 with Tony Hewitt, 1992 with Gavin Simmons, 1997, 98 and 99 with David James, and 2000 and now 2003 with Paul Woodhead

Webster has been on pole 59 times in the last 73 races since his comeback at the start of 1996 season.

In 143 race finishes since his debut in 1983 he has posted 121 rostrum places - almost 85 per cent.

Updated: 11:28 Monday, October 20, 2003