An eclectic mix of competitors made for a very interesting grid at Brands Hatch for the third round. From World and British Championship regulars and series leaders for both series, to new names and wild cards testing the water for the first time, the weekend was always going to have an unknown flavour. Certain predictions were inevitable, but equally there were surprises along the way.
For the first time ever, the Santander Salt team featured two lady passengers, as Sarah Stokoe joined Rob Biggs alongside Todd Ellis/Emmanuelle Clement. Sarah is well known in the sidecar world, partly as George Holden’s partner, but also for her exploits alongside multiple TT winner Rob Fisher in classic racing.
A newcomer to the series was Bemsee Championship runner Luke Williams with Jason Pitt alongside, running very well inside the top ten in free practice.
The feeder system in identifying new talent at club level has once again provided strong candidates for the higher order. Williams, at thirty years of age, already has over twenty years of kart and motor racing experience behind him. He follows his father into the world of three wheels. Bemsee F1 series leader Gordon Pottinger/David Dodd were another crew to step up and try their hand at a new level.
Just as the session got underway, rain started falling, catching out a couple of outfits on the opening lap. Gordon Pottinger collected a spinning Craig Clarke, with Pottinger’s passenger David Dodd suffering concussion and an overnight hospital stay for observation. All teams came back to pit-lane or the paddock to change tyres causing a further delay to proceedings. The resumption of qualifying left ten minutes on the clock, with Rupert Archer/Phil Hyde setting the early standard. Ellis/Clement got stuck in and shot to the head of the times, with a respectable 1.47.348 given the conditions.
Blackstock and Rosney then took control at the front, with Kershaw/Charlwood rushing to change tyres in pit lane, vainly trying to get one lap in. A red flag brought it to a close, with Kershaw unable to complete his lap. He would now start from the back of the grid. Conditions were against them
today, but not so the series leaders. Blackstock and Rosney would start from pole position, ahead of Ellis/Clement and the Christie brothers from George Holden on row two.
The blue sky was back for Saturday morning with warm-up scheduled for midday and race one late afternoon. It was to be hoped the weather would hold and the prognosis was good. It was indeed hot stuff when the lights went out and the pack streamed into Paddock Hill Bend. Blackstock and Rosney got the initial drop, but Ellis/Clement (Santander Salt Yamaha) dived up the inside and took control. They were never to look back, breaking the lap record in the process of building an eight second lead over the twelve laps. Behind them, Sam and Tom Christie (CES Yamaha) fought tooth and nail with Blackstock/Rosney before the Express Tyres Services Yamaha pair pulled a gap. By the end of lap one Rob Biggs/Sarah Stokoe were out after an incident at Stirlings. Further down the order, Steve Kershaw/Ryan Charlwood had a problem from the start and ran wide at Paddock Hill Bend, so their race was over too. There appeared to be an electrical fault on the Quattro Yamaha which remained undiagnosed late into the evening. The rate of attrition in the early laps was high, accounting for three teams in the early stages. As Ellis/Clement marched on at the front, the Christies had a good scrap with Blackstock/Rosney until the red “ninety-five” bike let go and was also out with a blown engine. This allowed George Holden/Oscar Lawrence to grab their third consecutive podium spot, and a delighted Luke Williams/Jason Pitt moved into fourth in their debut Championship race.
Simon Robinson/Mick Fairhurst, Rupert Archer/Phil Hyde and Martin Kirk/Kyle Masters all scrapped throughout, with Robinson claiming fifth. Kevin Cable/Chaz Richardson had a solid ride to eighth in their first appearance in this title chase this year ahead of an entertaining battle between the Haz Beans Yamaha of Craig Hauxwell/Derek Taylor and Craig Clarke/Peter Ensor. Shawn and Anthony Hildidge claimed the final points in ninth.
Total retirements included Peach/Edwards with another mysterious electrical fault, Biggs/Stokoe, Blackstock/Rosney and Kershaw/Charlwood.
1/Todd Ellis/Emmanuelle Clement (Santander Salt Yamaha)
2/Sam Christie/Tom Christie (CES Yamaha)
3/George Holden/Oscar Lawrence (Holden Racing Kawasaki)
4/Luke Williams/Jason Pitt (WSRT Yamaha)
5/Simon Robinson/Mick Fairhurst (24 Seven Courier Service Yamaha)
6/Rupert Archer/Phil Hyde (Hannifin RS Yamaha)
7/Martin Kirk/Kyle Masters (MK Racing Yamaha)
8/Kevin Cable/Charlie Richardson (L&W Contractors Yamaha)
9/Craig Clarke/Peter Ensor (Centurion Packaging Honda)
10/Craig Hauxwell/Derek Taylor (Haz Beans Yamaha)
11/Shawn/Anthony Hildidge (H&K Racing Yamaha)
Warm-up set the scene on another beautifully sunny day, with the race scheduled late morning. Rob Biggs had drafted in Adam Christie alongside, so needed to get his three laps in. Kershaw’s problem appeared sorted he ran third fastest to Ellis but would start from the back of the grid. The Christie brothers were on top of warm-up times. A reverse grid once again was entertaining with Hauxwell/Taylor on pole, and three of the top four crews right at the back.
From the lights, the two front row crews Hauxwell and Clarke were under pressure, first from Kevin Cable/Chaz Richardson, and then by Sam/Tom Christie. The Christie boys had started alongside Todd Ellis but made a better job of hitting the front. This they did on lap one, and immediately pulled a three second lead over the pack. Ellis/Clement conversely, were almost on the grass into turn one from the lights, and then had a fight to get past Holden/Lawrence. By lap two they had made it through, but Sam and Tom Christie were flying, holding the lead for four laps. Wild card and new kid on the block Luke Williams with Jason Pitt in the hot seat was fourth on lap one behind Holden/Lawrence but quickly fell victim to the charging Steve Kershaw/Ryan Charlwood, who earlier had claimed the scalp of Blackstock/Rosney. The series leaders coming to Brands were not having the best of days by their high standards. Deep into what was a fantastic race, Ellis/Clement were away with it, not quite bettering their new lap record set earlier, but still faster than the 2021 time set by Ben and Tom Birchall.
Further down, a great ride by Martin Kirk/Kyle Masters saw them move from eighth to fifth at the flag in Kirk’s first ride for well over a year. Simon Robinson headed Rupert Archer, from Kevin Cable and the original front row occupants Hauxwell and Clarke. Ellis’s winning margin at the flag was three seconds over Kershaw/Charlwood who were just happy to know their mysterious gremlins had gone away. Third place for the Christies moved them further ahead in the tile chase. Rob Biggs and Adam Christie had an issue which put them into the pits, but they re-joined to finish in twelfth place behind Shawn/Anthony Hildidge.
DNF – Holden/Lawrence lap 9
Williams/Pitt lap 8
J Holden 22
The next round comes from the Cadwell Sidecar Revival August 6-8.