Blackstock/Rosney hold lead as Ellis/Clement do Thruxton double
Fresh from a race victory in the World Championship round at the Red Bull Ring Austria, Todd Ellis and Emmanuelle Clement had a rude awakening in Hampshire when their engine failed early in free practice. They spent the afternoon installing a replacement before the all-important single qualifying session. They clearly intended to support the championship and stake a claim to retain their title, unlike several other teams who gave Thruxton a miss for a variety of reasons best known to themselves. Injuries from the previous weekend were one factor, with the hard nature and fearsome record of the track on passengers certainly another cause.
Having said that, non-attendance does absolutely nothing for the profile and reputation of the championship, when all efforts are being made to preserve and maintain this unique branch of motorsport. The teams are allowed to drop their worst two race scores, so that might well have been a calculated gamble. By the same token, the Brands Finale will carry the customary double points, so literally, anything could happen.
Fifteen loyal teams were eager to compete at Thruxton however, so there was still plenty to fight for on track, with fine weather prevailing for the sole qualifying session.
Late in the day with track temperature good, we could expect good times. The lap record of 1.19.126 held by Ben and Tom Birchall would be a good indicator as to how far things had moved on, if at all. The best free practice time was two seconds shy of this figure, so they would need to find some more.
Lewis Blackstock/Paddy Rosney were immediately looking fast with Rob Biggs/Ferry Segers making a good start too. Series leaders Ellis/Clement had a couple of steady laps, and then went top with a 1.21.377. George Holden and Oscar Lawrence improved after lanyard issues in free practice, to go third on lap seven. Then, with a very last throw of the dice, Blackstock/Rosney eclipsed Ellis/Clement by thirteen thousandths of one second to claim pole position, with a 1.21.364. Paul and Tom Kirby put their Adolf RS on row three as fastest Cup qualifiers.
Row 1/ Blackstock – Ellis, – Row 2/ Holden – Biggs, – Row 3/ Kirk – Kirby,
Row 4/ P. Bell – Currie, Row 5/ Robinson – Gray, – Row 6/ Atkinson – M. Bell,
Row 7/ Clarke – Pottinger, Row 8/ Moss.
Early rain and ongoing intermittent showers had made for an interesting track situation going into the race. The grippy tarmac was now dry, but more rain threatened as the lights went out.
Blackstock/Rosney made their trademark lightning start, heading Ellis and Clement into the complex with Holden/Lawrence close in tow. Rob Biggs and Ferry Segers also had a flyer, sitting in a strong fourth place which they were to maintain all race long.
Sadly, we were to lose two outfits from the fray when Craig Currie/Justin Sharp locked up and slid round going into the complex. They were then collected by Michael Bell and Shane Colbrook, extensively damaging both machines. The F2 RAF Honda of Atkinson/Middleton managed to dodge the debris but were thereafter playing catch-up. That was it for the two long bikes, with their weekend over and major repairs essential for Knockhill.
Meanwhile, at the front, a fantastic scrap was unfolding, with Ellis/Clement going ahead on lap three. Blackstock/Rosney were matching the lap-times and doing a great job, with the three leading outfits covered by a couple of seconds. Then it began to rain at the back of the circuit, spurring George Holden to find his fastest lap on the penultimate tour, carrying him past Blackstock at the Club Chicane into second place. This move unsettled the #95 outfit, and they dropped a few more seconds on the final lap.
Holden/Lawrence matched the race leaders, closing to within three-tenths of the Brookland LCR of Ellis/Clement at the flag.
Kirk and Masters were the final GP class bike in fifth, well clear of a great scrap for Cup honours, with class leaders Phil Bell/Mark Gash narrowly beating Paul/Tom Kirby in a thrilling five-way fight also involving Robinson/Fairhurst, Gray/Conil and Clarke/Ensor.
The track was in perfect shape for this one, with pole position sitters Ellis/Clement in place by virtue of their fastest race one lap.
From the lights, Ellis made no mistake, although challenged hard from the outset, he made the race lead their own, never looking back until the chequered flag. It was a world-class performance in which they came close to the lap record late in the race.
Blackstock/Rosney pulled off a cracking start from row two, shooting between the front row pair, to lead Holden/Lawrence into turn one and the complex. They set after Ellis, staying close for the first couple of laps, but then the elastic stretched, and Ellis was clear away.
George Holden and Oscar Lawrence had found their feet in race one, and fancied more of the same, growing in confidence lap after lap.
Meanwhile, the Cup battle was the most entertaining action, as Phil Bell/Mark Gash swapped paintwork with Paul and Tom Kirby for top honours. Craig Clarke/Pete Ensor were also involved in the early stages but were dropped away as the two Cup rivals slugged it out. Kirby was sideways on more than one occasion but held his nerve to bring it home ahead of the Cup class leaders.
Pottinger/Dodds were forced to retire at half distance, and there were three non-starters due to the Saturday crashes. Sole F2 exponents Rob Atkinson and Mark Middleton drew level with Pete Founds/Jevan Walmsley at the top of their respective table.
Cup battle apart, this race lacked the close action throughout witnessed in the opener, but a good Thruxton crowd stayed to watch and appreciate.
World action beckons the top teams next weekend in Assen, with the Jock Taylor at Knockhill next up for the British regulars in early September.
P. Bell 214.5
With two more rounds, five races and double points at Brands Hatch, this championship is very much alive with everything still to play for. We will bring you full preview and reports of those two events as they happen.
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