FIM Sidecars – One each for Kershaw/Charlwood and Ellis/Clement in Croatia
This famous track in Rijeka Croatia was the perfect setting to begin the second half of what has been a stunning season of racing so far.
The twenty-three-point advantage held by Santander Salt’s Todd Ellis and Emmanuelle Clement would need protecting, as main rivals Markus Schlosser/Marcel Fries knew full well that everything was still to play for at this stage of the year.
In scorchingly hot conditions, the teams prepared for a replay of the amazing racing from Hungary just a few days before. Free practice on the 2.6 miles circuit with its long straights, got underway prompt at 1pm on Friday. All teams spent the session in familiarisation and set-up, with no dramas or problems to report.
In ambient temperatures approaching thirty degrees, session one got underway. The early signs were that the battles from Hungary would be repeated. Todd Ellis and Emmanuelle Clement picked up where they left off, going almost half a second faster than the defending Swiss crews Schlosser and Fries. Benny Streuer/Kevin Kolsch were third fastest, ahead of Kershaw/Charlwood and Payne/Wilkes.
Once again Lukas Wyssen was strong, but Sam and Tom Christie got the better of Ted and Vincent Peugeot, slotting into seventh. The Kevin Cable/Claude Vinet scrap was due to be resumed, as they were less than half a second apart.
Q2, and this was another interesting session. The two teams at the top of the standings were going to be fighting again in the two races, except that Steve Kershaw and Ryan Charlwood got the better of Schlosser, both in time and position. Harry Payne/Mark Wilkes came out third ahead of Benny Streuer. Peugeot was absent, presumably doing some adjustments or sorting a problem.
Lap times were marginally up, with Todd Ellis/Emmanuelle Clement registering pole position once again with a time of 1.31.097, with Steve Kershaw/Ryan Charlwood (Quattro Yamaha) joining them on the front row.
Markus Schlosser/Marcel Fries Gustoil Yamaha) headed up row two whilst Harry Payne/Mark Wilkes (DAO1886 Yamaha) joined them in fourth after suffering leg muscle problems in Q1. The defending champions were unable to match their times from last year, which both puzzled and frustrated them. Then came Streuer and Wyssen on row three, Christie brothers and Ted Peugeot row four, with Claude Vinet/Sebastian Arifon and Kevin Cable/Chaz Richardson set to continue their excellent battle from the back of the grid.
Temperatures were through the roof for the opening race, and that could well pose challenges for all concerned. Ten seconds before the off, the tension was high, expectations were high, and with that came nerves.
The grid had a different look with Kershaw/Charlwood up front alongside Ellis/Clement, and Harry Payne/Mark Wilkes lurking with intent. A great start by the pole team saw the Santander Salt Yamaha lead from the word go. Kershaw/Charlwood went with them, and by lap three were still there ahead of Schlosser/Fries from Streuer and Payne. The battle for third was very fierce, with Benny Streuer, already having tasted victory in Hungary, fancying more of the same.
The Quattro Yamaha of Kershaw, although almost one second off Ellis, was flying and looking strong. Ted Peugeot and Lukas Wyssen were hard at it again, as were Kevin Cable and Claude Vinet. Schlosser had his hands full with Benny Streuer who was closing on the reigning Champion. Sam and Tom Christie closed down Lukas Wyssen and were looking threatening for seventh place.
Eight laps completed, and Kershaw had taken a fraction out of Ellis’s lead, whilst Schlosser was fighting for survival against Streuer. These two, along with Payne/Wilkes, were having a great scrap for fourth, and maybe even third place. The top five teams had all recorded lap times in the 1.31 sector, with Ellis posting a 1.31.057.
Eleven laps gone, and Ellis had shaken off Kershaw, with Schlosser a further two seconds back. This was by far the best ride this year by the Quattro Yamaha pairing of Kershaw/Charlwood, and surely would inspire them next time out. Harry Payne was now ahead of Benny Streuer/Kevin Kolsch and had Schlosser in his sights into the closing stages.
Ellis/Clement now had a two-second edge over Kershaw/Charlwood, but it was looking like a British one-two except Schlosser was closing fast on the Quattro Yamaha.
Then on lap fifteen, disaster struck as Streuer made contact with the back end of Kevin Cable giving him a rear wheel puncture. Streuer then crashed, capsizing the outfit in doing so. This bought out the red flag. He was taken to the Medical Centre, then hospital, checked over, given pain-killers and told to sit out race two. Our best wishes go to Benny and we’ll see him at the next round. Both Kevin Cable and Benny Streuer were classified as non-finishers. The result declared victory for Ellis and an increased title lead.
1/ Todd Ellis/Emmanuelle Clement (Santander Salt Yamaha)
2/ Steve Kershaw/Ryan Charlwood (Quattro Yamaha)
3/ Markus Schlosser/Marcel Fries (Gustoil Yamaha),
4/ Harry Payne/Mark Wilkes (DAO1886 Yamaha)
5/ Ted Peugeot/Vincent Peugeot (FHC Competition Yamaha)
6/ Lukas Wyssen/Thomas Hofer (Gustoil Yamaha)
7/ Sam Christie/Tom Christie (Christie Engineering Services Yamaha)
8/ Claude Vinet/Sebastien Arifon (Team Vinet LKS Racing Yamaha).
Morning warm-up put Steve Kershaw/Ryan Charlwood on top of the pile, with a lap time approaching race speed. They were buoyed by their second place in race one, whilst series leaders Schlosser/Fries, although fast and second in warm-up, were not their usual selves. Something was amiss with the Swiss, and that would be borne out in the race. Fortune was eventually to go their way however, and as we all know, nothing is certain in racing.
Once again, The Santander Salt Yamaha was away like a rocket from pole position, chased hard by Kershaw/Charlwood being headed to turn one by Schlosser/Fries with Harry Payne/Mark Wilkes right up there in touch and looking good. Schlosser then had a clutch problem which dropped him back. The Christie brothers were also going well along with Ted/Vincent Peugeot. Lukas Wyssen was not far back but would not be fighting with Peugeot at close quarters this time around. The Ellis/Clement duo opened a two second gap over the field and it looked for all the world as if they were once again home and dry. Schlosser was a shadow of his former self in the early stages but soon sorted the problem.
Having said that, just twelve seconds split the top seven after seven laps, with Kershaw having the race of his life. Schlosser then began to compose himself and get second wind. Then dramatically, Todd Ellis was in the pit with a problem. Schlosser was by now on a charge, and Steve Kershaw was now well out in front. Lap twelve, and Ted Peugeot was into third with Schlosser recovered from his mysterious issue and breathing down his neck. Ellis’s race was now over with a very rare mechanical retirement. This would once again throw the title chase wide open. Ellis rejoined but it was to no avail. They were ill-fared and had to quit.
Kershaw/Charlwood’s lead was now five seconds, with Payne/Wilkes chasing, and a further four seconds ahead of Schlosser/Fries. The writing was on the wall however, and the Swiss Gustoil Yamaha pair were not about to pass up this chance. They promptly moved past Peugeot into third on lap fifteen, with Harry Payne/Mark Wilkes now their next target. Lukas Wyssen/Thomas Hofer held a fine fifth, with Sam and Tom Christie next up. Vinet/Arifon completed the top eight, with just those teams still rolling. Victory for the Quattro Yamaha of Kershaw/Charlwood was indeed sweet for the team.
Official full standings will be available on the FIM website.
The next round comes from World Superbikes Donington Park July 15-17.
Photo credit: Mark ‘Wally’ Walters