The 2021 FIM World Championship is well and truly alive and kicking. Even with a grid depleted by COVID and travel restrictions, all the main players were on duty in Rijeka, welcomed with open arms by an enthusiastic crowd at the Automotodrom Grobnik. Eleven teams made the long journey, with three trekking from the UK. Former eight-times World Champion Tim Reeves with his French passenger Kevin Rousseau set the standard in free practice, from series leaders Markus Schlosser/Marcel Fries (Gustoil Yamaha). Third and fourth came Todd Ellis/Emmanuelle Clement (Santander Salt Yamaha) followed by reigning British Champions Steve Kershaw/Ryan Charlwood.
Qualifying – In very good weather conditions and twenty-eight degrees on the mercury, the Swiss pairing of Schlosser and Fries took control of the first qualifying session, heading Todd Ellis/Emmanuelle Clement home by three tenths of one second, with Reeves/Rousseau a further couple of tenths back in third. Benny Streuer/Jeroen Remme replaced Kershaw Charlwood to go fourth fastest.
Session two and it was more of the same, with Reeves/Rousseau edging out Ellis and Clement by one tenth to claim position two on the grid from the young Anglo-French couple. Kershaw/Charlwood share row two with Benny Streuer, followed by Pekka Paivarinta/Ilse de Haas alongside Lukas Wyssen in row three.
At this pace, Schlosser looked to be the man with a target on his back, as well as being series leader. His pole time of 1.30.963 was impressive.
Race One – The ambient temperature was through the roof for the start, sitting at the early thirties, this was going to be a hot one. There was no doubting the speed at the front of the race as the three favourites fought tooth and nail. Tim Reeves and Kevin Rousseau needed a strong win here to re-establish them as championship contenders.
That was not to be, as their Adolf RS Yamaha was to retire from proceedings after fourteen laps. Their problem was once again overheating and has become a cause for serious frustration to the Anglo-French duo. Prior to that, they had been scrapping throughout with the lightning-fast Markus Schlosser/Marcel Fries. They grabbed the lead from Todd Ellis/Emmanuelle Clement, with Benny Streuer/Jeroen Remme slotting third. Reeves sat a close fourth, looking dangerous, but as stated, was a condemned man. As the brace progressed, he and Kevin Rousseau fought past Ellis/Clement and then made a successful move on Schlosser, only to be re-taken.
After such a good race, Reeves must have been utterly gutted to retire with mechanical issues. He certainly was fast here.
The Swiss Gustoil Yamaha pairing finally brought it home for victory just six-tenths of a second ahead of Todd Ellis/Emmanuelle Clement (Santander Salt Yamaha) for victory.
This was becoming something of a habit for Schlosser, but well deserved. Steve Kershaw and Ryan Charlwood had been quietly chipping away, and once more picked up a good finish, as they completed the podium ahead of Benny Streuer/Jeroen Remme and Pekka Paivarinta/Ilse de Haas.
Result – 1/ Markus Schlosser/Marcel Fries (Gustoil Yamaha),
2/ Todd Ellis/Emmanuelle Clement (Santander Salt Yamaha), 3/ Steve Kershaw/Ryan Charlwood (Quattro Yamaha), 4/ Benny Streuer/Jeroen Remme (Bonovo Action Yamaha), 5/ Pekka Paivarinta/Ilse de Haas (44 Racing Yamaha), 6/ Lukas Wyssen/Thomas Hofer (Gustoil Racing Yamaha),
7/ Peter Kimeswenger/Kevin Kolsch (LCR Yamaha), 8/ Claude Vinet/Melanie Farnier) LCR Yamaha, 9/ Janez Remse/Manfred Welschelberger (Adolf RS Yamaha).
Race Two – If ever there was an advertisement for close sidecar racing, this was it. Again, it was a very vivid scrap at the front with Schlosser, Reeves, Ellis and Kershaw in line astern in the early stages. These four teams were all in the 1.31’s, with Tim Reeves/Kevin Rousseau claiming the fastest lap of the race on lap three with a 1.31.201. This probably gave them the edge they needed, because the winning margin was as close as that.
Lap after lap the three at the front circulated within a few lengths of each other, but after such huge disappointment with his earlier retirement, the eight times world Champion was in no mood for compromise. He is the first to acknowledge he has real competition this season, but still has a point to prove, and he did just that.
Even the great talent that Pekka Paivarinta has was overshadowed by the sheer speed of the front pack. He and Benny Streuer had a scrap in the early stages, but Pekka came home twelve seconds off the sharp end, and six seconds behind Steve Kershaw/Ryan Charlwood.
Meanwhile, words cannot describe the action at the front going into the final lap. All three outfits would have fitted into a large van, they were so close.
At the flag, Tim Reeves’ winning margin over Schlosser was just eight one-hundredths of a second, with Todd Ellis a similar fraction behind in third.
But for that phenomenal lap three for Reeves, it would have been a different story. Despite his best efforts, he still finds himself one hundred points behind Schlosser, with newcomers Ellis/Clement sitting second, forty-one points adrift.
Standings – Schlosser 210, Ellis 169, Paivarinta 135, Kershaw 125,
Reeves 110, Wyssen 77, Peugeot 45, Endeveld 41, Vinet 38, Payne 36
Kimeswenger 35. (Full standings can be found on www.fim-moto.com )
Round Five comes from Oschersleben Germany October 1-3rd
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