British F1: Knockhill thrills as the title lead changes hands
As the southern half of the UK basked in Mediterranean temperatures, Fife was a total contrast, with a very wet opening day on Friday.
A relatively small entry was amplified by a clash with the FIM World Championship in Hungary which kept the series leaders Todd Ellis/Emmanuelle Clement away. Tim Reeves/Kevin Rousseau also signalled a late change of plan and were not present, along with double TT winners Ben and Tom Birchall. This left the door well and truly open for others to capitalise.
The invitation was gleefully accepted, with some serious fighting at the front for the big points. Making a one-off return was Stuart Clark, who accompanied Steve Kershaw to the 2018 title. He jumped in with Simon Robinson for a one-off appearance, and the pair did pretty well once they had adjusted to each other. Free practice saw Lewis Blackstock/Paddy Rosney run at the front, with Sam Christie giving brother Tom only his second trip out at Knockhill ahead of Phil Bell and his cousin Carl on the Marin Motorsport Yamaha.
The weather had improved significantly ahead of the only timed session. The sun was out although there was a very stiff breeze in the backs of the crews as they came up from the hairpin and away over the start-finish line.
The Christie brothers Sam and Tom made the early running, but it was not long before Lewis Blackstock and Paddy Rosney on the DHR/Express Tyre Services Yamaha made their presence felt at the front.
They opened a slight advantage, with Simon Robinson and Stuart Clark sitting third. Once ahead, Blackstock/Rosney were never to let the lead slip, making pole position theirs in fine style. Locals Lewis Nicol and Rhys Gibbon were mid-pack behind Scottish Championship rivals Phil and Carl Bell. In fourth, halfway through the session were George Holden and Oscar Lawrence, with every chance of grabbing a podium at this event. That possibility was reinforced as they moved third with seven minutes remaining. Simon Robinson fought back to reclaim third place however, as the Christies tried to close down Blackstock/Rosney. Paul and Tom Kirby went seventh fastest, underlining their steady improvement, with Andy Peach/Ken Edwards, Rupert Archer/Phil Hyde and Craig Hauxwell/Derek Taylor on the Hazbeans Adolf RS Yamaha completing the grid.
Late in the day, with a low sun, there was a good crowd of sidecar fans staying for what would be a welcome move to three-wheeled action. Would there be a new series leader at the end of the race? There was every chance, and
away they went for fifteen hectic laps.
Blackstock/Rosney led the charge off the line into Duffus Dip with the Christie brothers and Simon Robinson/Stuart Clark neck and neck behind. Next came George Holden/Oscar Lawrence looking left and right for a way through. Phil and Carl Bell were also tucked in behind. These five outfits circulated in close formation with Blackstock easing a small gap on lap two. Equally, Sam and Tom Christie had a small cushion over a lot of action behind. George Holden eventually muscled the Kawasaki past Robinson, who seemed to be in handling trouble, taking to the grass and gravel exiting Leslie’s. It later transpired that his bike for some reason had become almost unrideable, eventually spitting Stuart Clark out. They would need to sort the problems before race two.
Further down the order, young Scotsman Lewis Nicol was having a great ride chasing down his local championship rival Phil Bell and Andy Peach/Ken Edwards. Phil Bell had to pit late in the race with Carl suffering from arm-pump. He was dejected and very disappointed but determined to make the grid for race two. It was to be a fine fourth place for the Nicol/Gibbon pairing in only their second British Championship race.
Race leaders Blackstock/Rosney were away with it, posting a time just seven tenths outside Todd Ellis’s lap record, so clearly were in form. Peach/Edwards, Rupert Archer/Phil Hyde and Craig Hauxwell/Derek Taylor had their own fun further down the field, but Peach was rewarded with fifth.
1/ Lewis Blackstock/Paddy Rosney (DHR/Express Tyre Services Yamaha)
2/ Sam/Tom Christie (CES Yamaha)
3/ George Holden/Oscar Lawrence (Holden Racing Kawasaki)
4/ Lewis Nicol/Rhys Gibbon (Nicol Racing Yamaha)
5/ Andy Peach/Ken Edwards (Lifesafety Yamaha)
6/ Rupert Archer/Phil Hyde (Hannafin Adolf RS Yamaha)
7/ Paul/Tom Kirby (Adolf RS Yamaha)
8/ Craig Hauxwell/Derek Taylor (Adolf RS Hazbeans Yamaha).
The reverse grid was always going to be interesting into Duffus Dip and we were not disappointed. Craig Hauxwell/Derek Taylor were keen not to repeat their Oulton Park antics as they headed off from pole position.
They did a good job on the opening lap, but George Holden/Oscar Lawrence were on them, as indeed were the Christies. Blackstock/Rosney had a heart-stopping moment after the first warm-up lap with a dead engine. They pushed off the grid and onto the grass, only for it to fire up again. The second warm-up lap gave them the breathing space to take their place.
They had a harder fight through but made it on lap three to take the lead, Behind them however, there was lots going on. Simon Robinson had his handling sorted, and he and Stuart Clark were fighting hard, as indeed was Phil Bell. Carl was in better shape this time and they had a good race.
The Bell pairing claimed fourth place when the rear tyre of Robinson’s outfit failed on the final lap. Knockhill was a weekend to forget for Robinson and Clark. Young Lewis Nicol/Rhys Gibbon enjoyed a good scrap with Andy Peach/Ken Edwards behind the Bell outfit, and Rupert Archer/Phil Hyde stayed ahead of Paul/Tom Kirby. The Gloucester duo have been steadily improving, are consistent, and the standings reflect their efforts.
Archer and Hyde enjoyed their weekend in Scotland picking up twenty-one points for their trouble. Craig Hauxwell/Derek Taylor, from pole position, slipped to the back of the field, but smiling faces in the “Hazbeans Racing” camp told a great story. Who knows, if there had been prize money, Craig might even have bought some razor blades!!!
At the flag, Blackstock/Rosney had a two second edge over Sam and Tom Christie, getting to within seven tenths of Todd Ellis’s lap record. Holden/Lawrence were again on the podium in third and that was good to see. Events conspired against a strong entry here, but the ten crews present put on a good show, throwing the title race wide open. When the big guns return from foreign parts, the title race will be very interesting with Brands Hatch next up.
5/ Peach Edwards
J. Holden 22
Round Three comes from Brands Hatch July 22-24.