British F1: Birchalls and Ellis/Clement dominate damp Cadwell Park
The celebrated Cadwell Sidecar Revival attracted a full entry of all manner of sidecars, with the main focus being on the three championship races.
Todd Ellis (Santander Salt Yamaha) had his French lady passenger alongside for his second British Championship appearance in as many weeks. Ben and Tom Birchall (Haith Honda) were more than keen to fight for their unbroken record of victories.
Absent from Cadwell Park were Sam and Adam Christie because of Adam’s Thruxton injuries. At this moment in time, the Christie bike will continue to be missing, with the ankle injury to Adam more serious than initially thought. Asked if he might be tempted to use a replacement passenger to protect their points, Sam said the family feeling was, that racing was on hold pending Adam’s recovery. Let’s all hope it is sooner rather than later. Scott Lawrie and Shelley Smithies had a huge crash at Mansfield in Friday practice which seriously bent the bike and ended their weekend prematurely. Happily, both were none the worse for the experience. They intend being back at Cadwell in two weeks time.
Qualifying – Saturday dawned cool but bright, with every prospect of a dry weekend ahead. Todd Ellis and Emmanuelle Clement set an early pace, but it was not long before Ben and Tom Birchall went under their own lap with the fastest three-wheeled time ever recorded at Cadwell to claim pole position by well over one second. The Haith Honda sounded sublime, and the pair looked very smooth indeed.
Tommy Philp and Tom Bryant (Roberts Construction Yamaha) were another quick crew running very similar times to Ellis/Clement, whilst Lewis Blackstock and Paddy Rosney were also not far adrift. Rob Biggs/Jeroen Schmitz ending up fifth fastest.
At the end of the session, a communication breakdown saw Tommy Philp accelerate up the mountain, when Tom Bryant his passenger was preparing to exit stage left into the holding area. He was dumped on the tarmac, with Philp briefly continuing alone. That, however, was not the end of their drama.
Race One – The Birchalls flew off the line in dry fast conditions chased by Ellis/Clement, and for three laps the gap was never more than four tenths of a second. The Honda looked to be superior on straight-line speed and smooth as silk in the bends.
Try as he might, Ellis could not close them down, but chased them home over twelve laps to second place. The winning margin was five seconds at the flag, with Blackstock/Rosney some thirteen seconds further back. Tommy Philp and Tom Bryant were again close in fourth and looking dangerous, until they discovered the exhaust shield had been left in the garage, and not where it should have been protecting the driver. Philp persevered adrenalin fuelled, not giving an inch despite being in constant pain. He made it to the end without losing places but shed some skin from his ankles along the way.
Rob Biggs/Jeroen Schmitz, Ben Holland/Tom Christie and John Holden/Jason Pitt made a real race of it split by just nine seconds at the flag, as George Holden/Oscar Lawrence brought it home in eighth. A close quartet completed the lower order, as Andy Peach/Ken Edwards fought off a race-long challenge from Kevin Cable/Lee Watson, Rupert Archer/Phil Hyde, and Simon Robinson/Mick Fairhurst. Final place for three points went to Craig Clarke/Peter Ensor for City Lifting.
1/ Ben/Tom Birchall (Haith Honda)
2/ Todd Ellis/Emmanuelle Clement (Santander Salt Yamaha)
3/ Lewis Blackstock/Paddy Rosney (DHR Express Tyres Yamaha)
4/ Tommy Philp/Tom Bryant (Roberts Construction Yamaha)
5/ Rob Biggs/Jeroen Schmitz (Santander Salt Yamaha)
6/ Ben Holland/Tom Christie (JH Racing Kawasaki)
7/ John Holden/Jason Pitt (Barnes Silicone Racing Adolf RS Yamaha)
8/ George Holden/Oscar Lawrence (Suzuki LCR)
9/ Andy Peach/Ken Edwards (Life Safety Yamaha)
10/ Kevin Cable/Lee Watson (L&W Yamaha)
Race Two – With no reverse grid applied at Cadwell, and cool, grey weather conditions, was there an opportunity for Todd Ellis to reign in the flying Birchalls?
Fourteen laps were a good distance in which to do it, and when the lights went off, you just knew the Anglo/French couple were going to give it their best shot. Emmanuelle was learning all the time, so there was every chance
From the lights, again Ben and Tom Birchall led the charge into Coppice and round Charlie’s. On the run down from the Gooseneck to Mansfield, a flash shower caught all the leaders out, with the Birchalls and Todd Ellis going straight onto the grass, along with Lewis Blackstock who just managing to avoid crashing. Tommy Philp/Tom Bryant were not so lucky and came unstuck into the tyre wall, causing the red flag to come out. Both were examined at the scene with Tommy being airlifted to hospital with chest injuries and for further precautionary checks. All best wishes go to Tommy for a speedy return from what turned out to be rib and lung damage. After a heavy downpour, the race was restarted in wet conditions.
This time around, the only tyre choice was full wets, but even as they started, the rain had abated, and the sun was out. The Birchall boys again hit the front chased by the Santander Salt Ellis/Clement pairing. Blackstock and Rosney once more dropped into third, and that is where they stayed for a respectable, if lonely race, Ben Holland and Tom Christie got their Kawasaki into fourth after an early challenge from Rob Biggs/Jeroen Schmitz. This was a strong race for Holland, and he was never threatened once the race settled down. A great battle between the Holdens John and George resulted in the new generation surpassing the old. It was heart-warming to see the quality from both crews throughout the scrap.
Mention should be made of a good performance from Craig Clarke and Peter Ensor as they obviously revelled in the adverse conditions.
Four laps from the end and Ellis/Clement made the move which secured an impressive victory on destroyed rubber. Ben Birchall was magnanimous in defeat despite the fact his unbroken win record in the series had gone.
2/ Ben/Tom Birchall
6/ G Holden/Lawrence
7/ J Holden/Pitt
Race Three – This was declared a wet race, although Rob Biggs made the decision to go out on intermediate tyres. It was a gamble which did not pay off as once again the weather closed in, and persistent rain fell.
The Birchalls made the start, with Ellis/Clement tardy off the line allowing Blackstock through. That was not for long, and this time Ellis got in the groove quickly, assuming control early on. Such was the massive points lead amassed by Ben and Tom Birchall, to risk a crash would have been foolish. Lap times were ten seconds slower in tricky conditions, but that did not stop a brave challenge by Ben Holland/Tom Christie for the final podium position. They chased Blackstock/Rosney down all race long to within one second at the flag. Three podiums for Blackstock moves them to second place in the standings. John Holden, still smarting from defeat by his son, made no mistake this time with an inspired ride to fifth ahead of Andy Peach/Ken Edwards, both still suffering from their big Thruxton crash. A small error by George Holden dropped them off the pace, but they rounded out the weekend with seventh place.
5/ J Holden/Pitt
7/ G Holden/Lawrence
J Holden 90
G Holden 58
The next round is back at Cadwell Park BSB 20-22 August.
Photo credits: Jenny “Triker” Wells