Ellis/Clement in sparkling form taking all three at Donington Park
With twenty-five points on the board and fresh from World Championship duties, early series leaders Todd Ellis and Emmanuelle Clement were in determined mood on the newly re-surfaced Donington Park. Twenty-two teams were entered for round two with German lubricant giants Rowe Motor Oils as sidecar event sponsor, but Martin Kirk/Kyle Masters were excused at the last minute due to Kirk’s mother suddenly being taken ill. Greg Lambert was already Isle of Man bound, so was another absentee.
New names however, included Craig Currie/Justin Sharp and Gordon Pottinger/David Dobbs. It was good to see Currie back and riding the Robinsons of Bawtry Honda LCR. As it transpired, he had a good weekend.
Thanks to the flexibility of the MSV organisational team, the cancelled race from Oulton Park was built into the programme late on Friday afternoon, so this was a very busy three-race weekend for the teams with seventy-five points up for grabs.
Free practice saw Ellis/Clement resume control as fastest on track with a good showing by the Christie brothers Sam and Tom. George Holden/Oscar Lawrence, and Lewis Blackstock/Paddy Rosney also got quickly in the groove.
Track conditions were perfect with a slight breeze for the one session. With three races on the programme, this was a truly meaningful weekend, so qualifying needed to be right!
Ellis/Clement (LCR Brookland Yamaha) were right on lap record pace from lap two, setting a storming 1.36.455, chased by the Christie brothers. On lap four, the boys from Beverley had their Yamaha under the record and claim provisional pole. Both these top crews had clashed last weekend in Germany, so it was a case of “déjà vu” for them. Next lap and Ellis had once again broken new ground into the one-thirty-fives, underlining his determination. The Avon tyre rule for this season allows a maximum of four new tyres over the weekend, so care needed to be taken.
Blackstock/Rosney (DHR/Express Tyre Services Yamaha) were getting to grips with the new bike, ahead of Holden/Lawrence (Holden Racing Kawasaki) trying desperately to close the gap. It was no real surprise that Lee Crawford/Jake Lowther (Team ARC/Marin Motorsport Yamaha) were fastest of the Cup runners, with no F2 outfits present.
Craig Currie/Justin Sharp followed Crawford home, so those were the top three rows taken care of ahead of race one.
The lights went out and the charge to Redgate was on. Initially Blackstock/Rosney and Sam/Tom Christie were vying for the lead having got the jump on the pole sitters, but that was short-lived as Ellis/Clement swept in front round Redgate. Lee Crawford/Jake Lowther were in this leading bunch too, and stayed with them all race long.
The Christie brothers showed the speed they enjoyed all last season and into this year, fighting with Ellis/Clement. Blackstock and Crawford made it a close affair up front, with George Holden/Oscar Lawrence holding fifth just a few seconds back. As the race unfolded, the two teams at the front both went under the Birchall brother’s lap record, with Ellis breaking new ground on lap seven with a 1.35.050. Andy Peach/Ken Edwards did not start due to a blown engine earlier in the day, and Rupert Archer/Adam Christie made only two laps before they too were side- lined with front end damage. The other non-finishers were Craig Clarke/Peter Ensor after a spirited nine laps.
Top Cup performance saw a great effort by Crawford/Lowther, making the podium in third place.
1/ Ellis/Clement (LCR Brookland Yamaha)
2/ Christie/Christie (Hannafin Contractors Yamaha)
3/ Crawford/Lowther (Team ARC/Marin Motorsport Kawasaki)
4/ Blackstock/Rosney (DHR/Express Tyre Services Yamaha)
5/ Holden/Lawrence (Holden Racing Kawasaki)
6/ Currie/Sharp (Robinsons of Bawtry Honda)
7/ Biggs/Segers (Express Tyres Services/Santander Salt Yamaha)
8/ Gray/Conil (Brian Gray Powerbiking Yamaha)
9/ Bell/Bell (Bell Racing Marin Motorsport Yamaha)
10/ Robinson/Fairhurst (Alan Blaylock Haulage Yamaha).
Saturday dawned beautifully sunny with those conditions prevailing all day. There was a strong breeze, but the impact on sidecars is far less than their solo counterparts. Ten laps lay ahead of the twenty-strong grid as the lights went out.
Once again it looked as if Ellis/Clement would lose their pole position advantage, but just as before they swept round Redgate as if they were on rails into the lead. Corner speed is a huge strength and that is just one area where they are very strong.
The Christie brothers and Blackstock/Rosney gave chase. With Crawford/Lowther once again at the sharp end. Crawford was to set a personal best and the third fastest lap time on lap three as he mixed it at the front.
Biggs/Segers and Currie/Sharp were making good progress ahead of a fantastic five way battle involving Gray/Conil, Archer/Christie, Simon Robinson and Mick Fairhurst, Phil/Carl Bell and Clarke/Ensor. This raged for lap after lap and was thoroughly good entertainment, with Archer getting the verdict to go sixth in the closing stages.
Phil and Carl Bell had the grandstand seats behind this lot and were poised to take advantage of any slips. One more lap and they would have nailed a slowing Brian Gray.
Rob Biggs finally seems to have conquered the gremlins which plagued his start to the season. It was good to see the number five outfit lapping consistently at almost identical lap times to Currie/Sharp. The latter crew moved into a very good fourth place when Crawford, having fought at the front all race, went out on the final lap with a front wheel issue. This must have caused real heartache after such a strong performance.
Craig Currie and Justin Sharp are a valuable addition to the series and more that capable of getting the Honda on the podium. We look forward to continued improvement from this colourful pair.
Andy Peach and Ken Edwards started at the back of the grid and fought through to a very creditable eleventh place ahead of Paul/Tom Kirby. Meanwhile, Ellis/Clement had opened a four second lead over the Christie boy, with an improving Blackstock/Rosney a further eight seconds back on a bike with which they are still finding their feet.
More glorious sunshine greeted the paddock for the final day of this BSB weekend. Ellis/Clement were poised to continue their unbroken run of success, and who would bet against them. Again, the Christie brothers made the best start, leading the entire first lap, with Ellis/Clement in keen pursuit.
Blackstock once again was hassled by Crawford, who was clearly enjoying things on track. Biggs and Segers were settling in as the passenger adjusted to the new track, and they dropped into fifth place. The bike was now running well, and they could concentrate on riding to what turned out to be a fine fourth place.
Holden/Lawrence made good progress from the back of the grid and were in tenth when on lap four. Then they were out once again with a problem. Another crew in trouble was Blackstock/Rosney, pulling into pit-lane and losing one lap. They were to glean a couple of points finishing in fourteenth.
Further down, Cup leaders Robinson/Fairhurst were involved in a battle with Currie/Sharp and Archer/Christie, narrowly missing out on fifth place to Currie when Blackstock pulled in. Currie rounded out a good weekend moving to fourth in the GP class standings after just three races.
As for Ellis/Clement, there was no mistaking the superb quality of the defending champions, with a flawless display and maximum points carrying forward to Snetterton.
Crawford/Lowther’s efforts finally paid off with a much-deserved podium.
Highlights of the races will be on our Youtube Channel shortly.
The third round comes from the Snetterton Circuit 7-9th July.
Photo credits: Snap-it Photography
Images available on request from Facebook/Instagram