The “new look British Sidecar Championship” arrived in Cheshire with a full grid and a galaxy of stars lining up to kick-start the new season.
Three classes within each race were always going to stir the pot and that proved to be a popular and interesting development. The weather was initially kind for both free practice and qualifying, but that was not to last.
The opening track action saw Sam and Tom Christie (Hannafin Yamaha) resume the strong form they enjoyed towards the end of last season, topping free practice by over half a second from Steve Kershaw/Ryan Charlwood Quattro Group Yamaha), with reigning Champions Todd Ellis/Emmanuelle Clement (LCR Brookland Yamaha) a similar distance back in third.
This feat was repeated in actual qualifying with the Christie brothers leaving it until the final flying lap to once again head the pack and claim pole position.
Ellis bettered Kershaw this time, recording second fastest with George Holden and Oscar Lawrence grabbing fourth from Tim Reeves/Mark Wilkes struggling with lubrication issues. They would be hoping to cure these gremlins before the race itself.
Lewis Blackstock/Paddy Rosney completed a top six for a GP class qualifying rout with Pete Founds/Jevan Walmsley seventh and quickest of the F2’s.
Cup honours for the long bikes went to Lee Crawford/Jake Lowther who complete row four alongside Founds/Walmsley.
Race One – Sunday turned out to be a fiasco for the entire sidecar paddock in addition to those who were already in trouble mechanically. It began damp, with rain having fallen overnight. The rain continued into the afternoon, with the track never really drying out.
Tim Reeves had been working tirelessly to overcome his oiling system problems, so he was hoping for a good race.
Rob Biggs was another rider plagued with mechanical woes and he too was still busy fettling his Express Tyres Services Yamaha all day Sunday.
Then one hour before the off, the heavens opened again, delaying the start of the Supersport race ahead of the sidecars. A thirty-minute delay pushed the sidecar start into the church curfew time and out of business. There was no Sunday race, but one of extended length late on Monday afternoon.
Race Two – Morning warm-up was again damp, but Tim Reeves/Mark Wilkes set a good fastest time, recording five laps with no apparent trouble.
Sadly, for Rob Biggs, the Express Tyre Services Yamaha dropped a valve, so his weekend was done. A full grid took advantage of the session, keen to get on track having twiddled their thumbs for the entire day before.
By the time the race came to the line, the bad weather had all but blown through, with late afternoon sunshine evident. Track conditions were perfect, so a good race was finally guaranteed.
From the lights, pole sitters the Christie brothers (Hannafin Yamaha) grabbed the lead into turn one with Ellis/Clement (LCR Brookland Yamaha) hot on their heels and Kershaw/Charlwood (Quattro Yamaha) third.
Sadly, for Tim Reeves, a potential four-way scrap was ruined when his hand went in the air on lap one. The oil problem was not fixed, and the Bonovo Action/Rich Energy Yamaha’s day was over.
Meanwhile, the three at the front were at it hammer and tongs, with Todd Ellis/Emmanuelle Clement diving under the Christies at Hislops. Getting past, into the lead and away was a matter of urgency, but the Beverley brothers were not giving up without a fight. All three outfits were in the 1.43’s for much of the race, as Ellis moved to within a fraction of his own lap record.
Kershaw and Christie had a race-long fight resulting in Kershaw muscling past on the run down from Hill Top to grab second spot. It was too late to catch Ellis however, but runner-up spot was a satisfying result.
Sam and Adam Christie, in their new Hannafin livery, proved yet again their worth and consistent race performance.
Behind them, a frantic scrap was headed by a flying F2 outfit in the hands of Peter Founds/Jevan Walmsley.
This stellar performance by Founds was at the head of a four-way scrap involving George Holden/Oscar Lawrence (Holden Racing Kawasaki), Lee Crawford/Jake Lowther (ARC Marin Motorsport Kawasaki) and Lewis Blackstock/Paddy Rosney (DHR/Express Tyre Services Yamaha).
Crawford exited proceedings on lap five, with Holden/Lawrence nailing fourth after eventually passing a brilliant F2 class winner Pete Founds to register a lonely fourth place.
Second in that class and twelfth overall were impressive youngsters Daryl Gibson/Rhys Gibbons shaking down their brand-new CES chassis ahead of the TT. They were chased home by Manxmen Ryan and Callum Crowe also refining their Haven Homes Honda LCR for the new season.
Ellis held his lead, albeit shortened to five seconds, but such was the dominance of the World Championship runners at the front, they finished twenty seconds clear of Holden/Lawrence, with Founds and Blackstock a further ten seconds back.
A returning Martin Kirk with Kyle Masters on board registered a good seventh ahead of the F1 Cup battle between Simon Robinson/Mick Fairhurst on the Alan Blaylock Haulage Yamaha and Paul/Tom Kirby with the first of the Adolf RS chassis’ home.
Seventeen outfits finished a good twelve-lap race, well and truly shaking out the cobwebs and giving many plenty of food for thought before Donington Park. Whilst not featuring in the result, Andy Peach can feel justly satisfied with his job at the helm of his first British Championship meeting.
1/ Todd Ellis/Emmanuelle Clement (LCR Brookland Yamaha), 2/ Steve Kershaw/Ryan Charlwood (Quattro Group Yamaha), 3/ Sam/Tom Christie (Hannafin Contractors Yamaha), 4/ George Holden/Oscar Lawrence (Holden Racing Kawasaki), 5/ Peter Founds/Jevan Walmsley ( Team Founds Racing 72 Honda), 6/ Lewis Blackstock/Paddy Rosney (DHR/Express Tyre Services Yamaha), 7/ Martin Kirk/Kyle Masters (MK Racing Yamaha).
Cup – 1/Simon Robinson/Mick Fairhurst (Alan Blaylock Haulage Yamaha),
2/ Paul Kirby/Tom Kirby (KRT Racing Adolf RS Yamaha), 3/ Phil Bell/Carl Bell (Marin Motorsports Yamaha),
F2 – 1/Peter Founds/Jevan Walmsley (Team Founds Racing LCF Honda),
2/ Daryl Gibson/Rhys Gibbons (CES Yamaha), 3/ Ryan/Callum Crowe (Haven Homes LCR Honda)
Round Two comes from Donington Park 9-21 May
Media Matters – Barry Nutley firstname.lastname@example.org