Ballasalla-based Harry Payne is linking up with three-time TT winner Rolf Steinhausen for the 2023 FIM Sidecar World Championship.

He was first helped by the double world champion in 2021 when he and Mark Wilkes gained wild card entries under the Steinhausen Racing banner at Oschersleben, Germany and Estoril, Portugal where the pair famously won the final round of the series on a wet track.

Now aged 30, Payne began his TT career as a passenger, finishing 12th in the 2018 event alongside Manx driver Michael Jackson.

2022 had promised so much for Payne and Wilkes, but the world championship bid went off-track mid-season, shortly after they had registered a fifth place in the TT in what was Harry’s first attempt as a driver.

The pair achieved pole position for the first world championship race at Le Mans in mid-April, but this was followed shortly afterwards by a spectacular crash. Mercifully, neither received serious injuries, but the weekend was ruined. They managed to start race two, in which they gained an eighth place on a borrowed outfit.

From mid-season the Isle of Man-based team was again a regular contender for podium finishes. At Rijeka in Croatia they finished fourth and second, and in the home GP at Donington Park they finished fourth and third.

Payne then found himself without a passenger (and sidecar), but during the summer break he renewed his link with Steinhausen, who immediately offered help to enable Payne to contest the remaining races.

With Jurby’s Callum Crowe jumping in as passenger for the concluding rounds, fifth place in the world championship was successfully defended with a team selflessly made available by a French-based set-up.

With the Crowe brothers planning their own assault on the full British Sidecar Championship (Callum was only a stand-in in any case), Payne secured another collaboration with Steinhausen Racing for 2023, for which a new Adolf RS outfit is currently being built.

The first roll-out should be possible in mid-March, when 29-year-old Frenchman Kevin Rousseau, who won three world championship races alongside Tim Reeves in 2021, will be installed as passenger.

‘I learned a lot last year. I know what I can do on the bike when everything is right,’ said Harry in an interview with Speedweek magazine (published in Germany).

‘The Steinhausen team knows how to prepare a bike and they are people I can trust 100%. I want to repay them for putting their trust in me after 2022’s disasters, and I have no doubts that I will be able to do that.’

Continuing, he said: ‘Callum Crowe stepped in as my passenger at short notice in Oschersleben and Estoril. However I was without a partner for 2023 and when I heard that Kevin would no longer be driving with Tim Reeves, I asked him if he would like to join my team. I’m really looking forward to racing with him as he is one of the best passengers around.

Steinhausen, who took part in a total of 18 TT races between 1973 and 1981, commented: ‘With Harry and his French passenger Kevin we want to build on the team’s successful years in the Sidecar World Championship.

‘We will send them on a title hunt with a brand-new, Yamaha-powered sidecar made by Landshut-based manufacturer ARS. We want to get the World Cup crown,’ added the determined German.

Steinhausen secured back-to-back world championships in 1975 and 1976, winning the TT’s final two 500cc Sidecar GP races in the process with Josef Huber on the Konig-engined outfit.