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Round Four - Knockhill 28-30 June 2019

Ellis/Richardson extend lead at dramatic Knockhill

 

Just days after the teams did battle over three races at Cadwell Park, the whole circus was north of the border at Knockhill on home ground for the defending champions Steve Kershaw and Stuart Clark (Molson/Express Tyres Yamaha).

The tight nature of the 1.26 mile hillside track would guarantee close racing in this new “all 600cc” class. Lap record holders and championship leaders Todd Ellis and Charlie Richardson arrived at Knockhill with a fifty-one point advantage over Kershaw and Clark, who suffered two zero scores in Lincolnshire. This was an opportunity for the latter crew to make up lost ground. The question was of course – would they do just that?

Free practice indicated the chances were high, with the defending champions posting a time just outside lap record pace. It was obvious there was more to come. The current championship leaders were third fastest behind former double champions Ricky Stevens and Ryan Charlwood (JG Speedfit/Quattro Plant Kawasaki).

Qualifying – Under cloudless skies, and warm glorious sunshine, the Knockhill track had never been in better shape for the twenty-minute qualifying session.

It rapidly turned into a fight between the top two in the title race, except there was one fly in the ointment in the shape of Ricky and Ryan.

They did a couple of exploratory laps before banging in a record pace lap to go top. Moments later, Kershaw and Clark flexed their muscles to claim provisional pole position back in sub-record time. Ben Holland/Lee Watson were another crew going well and keen to get a decent grid position. John Holden/Lee Cain were also very fast, right behind the Santander Salt Honda of Ellis and Richardson.

With minutes to go, it was Kershaw in control, Stevens in pit lane, Ellis still trying, and Holland fourth. Then came the Barnes/Silicone Engineering outfits of Holden and Blackstock. Amazingly, with a final throw of the dice, Kershaw lapped even quicker, putting it out of reach and claiming pole position.

Grid – Kershaw/Clark, Stevens/Charlwood, Ellis/Richardson, Holland/Watson, Holden/Cain, Blackstock/Rosney, Biggs/Schmitz, Bryan/Hyde, Peach/Edwards, Crawford/Hardie.

Race one – Given the tightness of the track, a good start was essential. From their pole position, Kershaw and Clark nailed it into Duffus Dip from the lights. They needed to, because a very on-form Ricky Stevens was looking hard at the inside, followed by Todd Ellis/Chaz Richardson. Right behind them, a coming together between Ben Holland/Lee Watson and one of the Barnes Racing Silicone Engineering outfits resulted in a broken wheel arch and a pit-stop for Holland. The JG Speedfit/Quattro Plant teamsters rejoined once repairs were done, but it was a hopeless task. The pace at the front was frantic, with the top three breaking away and opening a small gap.

Chasing hard behind came Lewis Blackstock/Paddy Rosney ahead of John Holden/Lee Cain, with Gary Bryan/Phil Hyde behind. Also in this mix, and shortly to improve even more, was the short chassis LCR Suzuki of Lee Crawford/Scott Hardie, former Scottish Champions and runners-up in the British F2 Championship. Their “open tune” engine had speed, and the short outfit was not really handicapped round Knockhill.

Lap four, the JG Speedfit/Quattro Plant Kawasaki of Stevens set a new lap record half a second faster, and looked very smooth in doing so. Mid-race distance and Kershaw/Clark held their lead but were busy fending off a determined Stevens/Charlwood challenge, as Todd Ellis dropped out of contention.

It was tail-ender time for the leaders, and that made for an interesting situation up front. There was also a spirited battle further down the order. Gary Bryan/Phil Hyde, Martin Kirk/Shellie Smithies, Rob Biggs/Jerome Schmitz and Chris Walker/Ashley Hawes were all locked together, with Chris Walker setting his fastest lap on the final tour to finish ninth. With the reverse grid rule in place this would earn him a front row start alongside Gary Horspole/James Connell.

Race One Result – 1/ Kershaw/Clark (Molson/Express Tyres Yamaha), 2/ Stevens/Charlwood (JG Speedfit/Quattro Plant Kawasaki), 3/ Ellis/Richardson (Santander Salt Honda), 4/ Blackstock/Rosney (SBR Yamaha), 5/ Crawford/Hardie (ARC Suzuki), 6/ Bryan/Hyde (CVR/GBM Honda), 7/ Kirk/Smithies (MK Yamaha), 8/ Biggs/Schmitz (Taurus Tools Honda), 9/ Walker/Hawes (TAG Racing Yamaha), 10/ Horspole/Connell (Sleaford Foods/Baker Plant Yamaha)

Race Two – Heavy thunderstorms and rain overnight brought a totally different complexion to the Sunday races, so much so that the programme was revised to just two races rather than the planned three.

The reverse grid rule was in place, so Gary Horspole/Jimmy Connell on the Sleaford Foods/Baker Yamaha lined up on pole alongside Chris Walker/Ashley Hawes (TAG Racing Yamaha). Walker had posted his fastest lap on the penultimate tour of race one, and was very excited about the prospect of leading the field from the lights.

Row two comprised Kirk/Smithies and Biggs/Schmitz, ahead of a very rapid Lee Crawford/Scott Hardie on their short chassis, sharing row three with Gary Bryan/Phil Hyde. The Stalker and Ashley did what they needed to do, and flew from the lights, edging out Horspole on the run to Duffus dip. Lee Crawford/Scott Hardie followed them through, with a great deal of shuffling behind as the eighteen-strong field sorted out lap one. Rob Biggs and Jerome Schmitz made the most of the reverse grid, and had the Taurus Tools Honda third ahead of a flying Blackstock/Rosney Yamaha. Biggs and Schmitz were to be rewarded with a fine joint third in the standings at the close of play.

Gary Bryan and Steve Kershaw had a first-lap coming together in the traffic, resulting in Kershaw stopping to change a wheel-arch. He and Stuart Clark then started bog-last, one lap adrift. They eventually fought through to thirteenth place. Bryan too had to make a quick stop to extricate Kershaw's wheel arch from underneath his outfit.

Next lap, Crawford was in front, but Walker was having none of it, regaining the lead on lap three, only to succumb to a fresh push by Crawford. The short chassis LCR with its bellowing Suzuki engine, was very quick round Knockhill, and once in front, they were proving extremely difficult to pass.

Now third and very strong, Blackstock/Rosney fended of a charging Todd Ellis/Chaz Richardson lap after lap, with an impressive fight through by Ricky Stevens and Ryan Charlwood on the JG Speedfit/Quattro Plant Kawasaki.

Lap six, and Crawford was out with mechanical problems with a gleeful Walker back in front, but under pressure. By lap eight, Blackstock had taken the lead, with Stevens breathing down his neck and Ellis sitting third.

This was the most amazing spectacle of sidecar racing at its best. Then, dramatically, Stevens took over at the front on lap nine, only to clip the kerb, spin, and have Blackstock ram him amidships.

Big winners here were John Holden and Lee Cain, who had been steadily working through from twelfth place on lap one, staying out of trouble. Theirs was another impressive display in what was an altogether entertaining race. They now sat third behind Walker, who had finally given best to Todd Ellis/Chaz Richardson at the front. Two laps later, they were into second place.

The championship leaders made no mistakes for the final seven laps and brought it home ahead of the Barnes/Silicone Engineering Holden/Cain, with a delighted Walker/Hawes completing the podium.

Having their best result of the season, Martin Kirk and Shellie Smithies were equally thrilled with fifth place and good points for their efforts.

Race Two Results – 1/ Ellis/Richardson, 2/ Holden/Cain (SBR Kawasaki), 3/ Walker/Hawes (TAG Racing Yamaha), 4/ Biggs/Schmitz, 5/ Kirk/Smithies, 6/ Bryan/Hyde, 7/ Gray/Pitt, 8/ Gilbert/Pilmoor-Brady, 9/ Horspole/Connell, 10/ Cable/Masters

Standings – Ellis/Richardson 170, Kershaw/Clark 106, Bryan/Hyde 84, Biggs/Schmitz 84, Holden/Cain 81, Blackstock/Rosney 77, Gray/Pitt 57, Kirk/Smithies 51, Peach/Edwards 49, Cable/Masters 43, Christie/Christie 42, Walker/Hawes 42

The next round comes from Snetterton 19-21 July.

Media Matters - Barry Nutley - barry.nutley@btinternet.com

 

 

BSB / British Sidecar Championship Partners


Steve Kershaw and Stuart Clark
Steve Kershaw and Stuart Clark

Steve Kershaw and Stuart Clark
Steve Kershaw and Stuart Clark

Todd Ellis and Charlie Richardson
Todd Ellis and Charlie Richardson

Ricky Stevens and Ryan Charlwood
Ricky Stevens and Ryan Charlwood

Chris Walker
Chris Walker and Ashley Hawes

Chris Walker and Tom Christie
Chris Walker and Ashley Hawes

John Holden and Lee Cain, Blackburn, SBR (Silicone Engineering / Barnes Racing), Todd Ellis and Charlie Richardson, Market Rasen, Santander Salt, Chris Walker and Tom Christie, Newark, TAG Racing Yamaha
John Holden and Lee Cain, SBR (Silicone Engineering / Barnes Racing), Todd Ellis and Charlie Richardson, Santander Salt, Chris Walker and Ashley Hawes, TAG Racing Yamaha

John Holden and Lee Cain
John Holden and Lee Cain

Chris Walker and Tom Christie
Chris Walker and Ashley Hawes / John Holden and Lee Cain

John Holden and Lee Cain
John Holden and Lee Cain


Photos copyright: Impact Images Photography

 

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