The opening two races of the 2022 season at a packed Oulton Park gave the spectators good value for money, despite a reduced grid size. Clashes with other events diluted the normally strong attendance. However, it was clear to see the crowds were delighted to be back trackside at BSB, with its full programme of support classes.
Following free practice in which Todd Ellis/Emmanuelle Clement set quickest time on the Santander Salt Yamaha, the sunny conditions which prevailed for two days prior, turned into a grey day with spots of rain in the air just as the outfits rolled out for qualifying.
Thirteen crews were entered, with a good bunch of fast boys intending to give Ellis a run for his money. Lewis Blackstock/Paddy Rosney and Sam/Tom Christie (CES Yamaha) were second and third quickest, with George Holden/Oscar Lawrence (Kawasaki LCR) running a strong fourth. John Holden/Jason Pitt were impressive on their TT F2 chassis with a standard specification motor fitted. Gary Bryan and Phil Hyde were another crew
bedding in their TT LCR Honda, looking not in the slightest rusty.
From the word go, despite tricky conditions, Ellis/Clement were in attack mode, with the Christie brothers giving it their best shot. The race lap-record set by Ben and Tom Birchall last season was the benchmark, and the World Series leaders surpassed that on lap six. A time of 1.43.644 was two tenths inside the record, and that was on a cold and very slightly damp track, which the French lady was seeing for the first time. Behind them, the Christie brothers and Blackstock/Rosney were strong, with George Holden/Oscar Lawrence marginally quicker than Pete Founds/Jevan Walmsley on their Rowtech Honda. Always a force to be reckoned with, Pete Founds was his usual determined self.
Rob Biggs and Jeroen Schmitz suffered head gasket failure, with Paul/Tom Kirby out of action with suspected clutch problems on their KRT Racing Yamaha Adolf RS. Both crews were busy in the garage at the close of play, and would do their best to make the grid for the opening race, albeit from the back. So, the front row featured Ellis/Clement and Blackstock/Rosney, from Sam/Tom Christie and George Holden/Oscar Lawrence, then came F2 rivals Founds/Walmsley and Holden/Pitt, with row four carrying Andy Peach/Ken Edwards and Simon Robinson/Mick Fairhurst.
Two ten lap races were scheduled, so there was plenty of opportunity to grab big points. Given there were a couple of clashes between World and British title fights, it was imperative that Todd Ellis scored as many as possible here at the opener.
Overnight rain fell, but by the time the outfits arrived at the line, the track had seen hectic British Superbike action dry the track. Pole sitters Ellis/Clement got a flyer, chased by Blackstock/Rosney. The Christies were up into third and there they stayed. The speed differential between them and Blackstock was tight but overtaking on the Oulton Park circuit is not easy. Next came Pete Founds and Jevan Walmsley. The leading F2 outfit was hassled in the early laps by a hard charging George Holden/Oscar Lawrence.
There was a new level of determination from the former Bemsee champions, and their bike was fast. They swarmed all over Founds/Walmsley until the 600 Kawasaki let go in a big way, breaking a con-rod. The dry sump configuration contained the oil in the tank, so there was no contamination to the track. That left Pete Founds to make fourth place his, ahead of John Holden/Jason Pitt, who with their standard engine, claimed the fourth place points.
Shawn and Anthony Hildige had a hairy moment exiting Old Hall on lap three, slamming the Armco barrier at 115 MPH before spinning and throwing Anthony from the chair. They were lucky not to go in head-on. This ended their day. Another rare, if not unique situation saw Phil Hyde exit Gary Bryan’s Honda, only to jump straight back in and claim a ninth- place finish.
Simon Robinson/Mick Fairhurst made great strides from a pit-lane start to overhaul Andy Peach/Ken Edwards for sixth place, with Rob Biggs/Jeroen Schmitz still with coolant trouble, not completing a lap. Tom Kirby was feeling the effects of no track-time and found Oulton Park almost a bridge too far in race one, but after a good night’s sleep, had his head in a better place for race two. Nonetheless, they were credited with a finish and points. This pair of Kirbys are committed to the season, and simply need to be more on the bike. Lap times were good, and all the signs are there. They were up there with Craig Hauxwell and Gary Bryan, so they can take encouragement from that.
At the front, Todd Ellis/Emmanuelle Clement were cruising, but banged in a new lap record on their way to victory. They were half a second quicker than Ben and Tom Birchall were this time last year. Blackstock/Rosney and the Christie brothers completed the podium with polished displays.
1/ Todd Ellis/Emmanuelle Clement (Santander Salt Yamaha)
2/ Lewis Blackstock/Paddy Rosney (DHR/Express Tyre Services Yamaha)
3/ Sam Christie/Adam Christie (Christie Engineering Services Yamaha)
4/ Pete Founds/Jevan Walmsley (Rowtech Honda F2)
5/ John Holden/Jason Pitt (Barnes Racing Yamaha F2)
6/ Simon Robinson/Mick Fairhurst (24/7 Courier Service Yamaha)
7/ Andy Peach/Ken Edwards (Lifesafety Yamaha)
8/ Craig Hauxwell/Derek Taylor (VINYLS 4U Adolf RS Yamaha)
9/ Gary Bryan/Phil Hyde (GBR Honda LCR)
10/ Paul Kirby/Tom Kirby (KRT Racing Yamaha)
In keeping with tradition, the reverse grid saw Paul and Tom Kirby on pole position alongside Gary Bryan/Phil Hyde. The first few laps were spectacular, in fact the action surpassed the first race in terms of entertainment. Craig Hauxwell and Derek Taylor went onto the grass at Cascades on lap one, spinning on the gravel and ending up capsized. Neither was hurt, dented pride being the only affliction. Pete Founds/Jevan Walmsley were not about to pass up the chance of having top crews behind and led after lap one from Blackstock/Rosney and Gary Bryan/Phil Hyde. Todd Ellis was fifth but on a charge. He was soon up with the leaders and went ahead on lap three.
He and Clement were never to look back, setting another new lap record in the process. They came to within one second of Tim/Tristan Reeves 1000cc best from 2017 with a time of 1.42.987.
Sam/Tom Christie’s Yamaha was the fastest through the speed traps, and testament to their engineering skills. They fought from eighth on lap one to third at the flag, although it took them five laps to muscle past Pete Founds. Rob Biggs/Jeroen Schmitz spun the other Santander Salt bike, but given the way their weekend had gone, were more than happy to recover and claim ten valuable points. Once the Christies had dispensed with Pete Founds, it was the turn of George Holden/Oscar Lawrence to tangle with the F2 star. Lap after lap he was hassled and harried, but only succumbed in the closing stages, as the youngsters shot by on the final lap. This scrap, with Holden junior using the spare engine – in his own words “an old motor”, was almost the highlight of the race.
Simon Robinson/Mick Fairhurst did another great job, bringing it home in sixth, ahead of Biggs and John Holden/Jason Pitt on their resplendent TT bike. Gary Bryan/Phil Hyde, along with pole men the battling Kirbys, completed the top ten, with another eight championship points going to the latter crew. They emerged from Oulton in sixth place overall – get in!!!
Andy Peach/Ken Edwards, after scoring well in the opener, were deemed non-finishers along with Hauxwell/Taylor. All in all, given the shortage of entries due to alternative event clashes and TT preparation, the racing was good, if a little eventful, with the Ellis/Clement bringing their World series class to bear in emphatic style.
Round Two comes from north of the border at Knockhill, Fife, June 17-19.