Ellis/Clement claim title for Santander Salt in epic Brands thriller
The final race weekend of the British Superbike calendar sported a full entry of over twenty sidecars to see the season out. Friday free practice took place in fine weather conditions, with qualifying later in the day. With double points on offer over the two races, there was still an opportunity for the title to go one of three ways. Clear favourites, nineteen points ahead were Todd Ellis and Emmanuelle Clement (Santander Salt Yamaha). Ever hopeful in second place sat Sam and Tom Christie (CES Yamaha), with third placed Lewis Blackstock and Paddy Rosney (DHR/Express Tyres Services Yamaha) a further sixty-one points back.
Spots of rain had made the track slightly damp as the twenty teams began the session. Conditions were far from ideal, but straight from the off, Steve Kershaw/Ryan Charlwood headed the field on the Quattro Yamaha. Ellis/Clement and the Birchall brothers were in close company. Joining one lap later, Lewis Blackstock and Paddy Rosney immediately went fastest, only to lose out to Birchall and Ellis. Sam and Tom Christie were fifth fastest with a 1.33.452 as Kershaw consolidated third place to head up row two alongside Blackstock/Rosney. There was little in it between the top two, but the Birchall brother shaved it, taking pole position by one tenth from Ellis/Clement. Their time was half a second shy of the lap record time set by Ellis earlier this year.
Row three were Christie/Christie and consistently quick Lee Crawford/Jake Lowther, with row four featuring Rob Biggs and veteran Rick Lawrence alongside bright new pairing Luke Williams/Jason Pitt on the Williams Racing Yamaha.
A brilliantly sunny morning turned into light showers later in the day, with the sidecar race scheduled for late afternoon. From the lights, Todd Ellis was steady away, not making the most of his front row start. He and Emmanuelle Clement were gobbled up by Steve Kershaw/Ryan Charlwood and Lewis Blackstock/Paddy Rosney into fifth place. Meanwhile, Ben and Tom Birchall headed out in front, chased all the way by the Quattro Yamaha of Kershaw, as Sam and Tom Christie slotted into third spot. In this position, the Beverly brothers were reducing the points disadvantage from Ellis and were intent on staying there.
We then had two distinct fights on our hands, as Kershaw dived under the Birchalls at Druids, and Ellis passed the Christie boys at Surtees. This manoeuvre left Ellis a bit wide, and he lost out again to the CES Yamaha.
Out front, a personal best lap time went to Kershaw/Charlwood within two tenths of lap record pace, and Ellis finally secured third, albeit too distant to get back in touch with the Haith Honda of Ben Birchall. This battle at the front overshadowed scraps further down the order, with Lewis Blackstock/Paddy Rosney gamely battling on for a solid result behind Lee Crawford/Jake Lowther to hold third in the standings. Ben and Tom Birchall’s result catapulted themselves up the order four places to fifth overall with race two still to come.
1/ Steve Kershaw/Ryan Charlwood (Quattro Yamaha)
2/ Ben Birchall/Tom Birchall (Haith Honda LCR)
3/ Todd Ellis/Emmanuelle Clement (Santander Salt Yamaha)
4/ Sam Christie/Tom Christie (CES Yamaha)
5/ Lee Crawford/Jake Lowther (ARC/Marin Motorsport Kawasaki)
6/ Lewis Blackstock/Paddy Rosney (DHR/Express Tyre Services Yamaha)
7/ Rob Biggs/Rick Lawrence (Santander Salt Yamaha)
8/ George Holden/Matty Ramsden (Barnes Racing Adolf RS Yamaha)
9/ Luke Williams/Jason Pitt (Williams Racing Yamaha)
10/ Craig Currie/Justin Sharp (Birchall Racing Honda).
A reverse grid saw Luke Williams/Jason Pitt neck and neck with Craig Currie/Justin Sharp into Paddock Hill Bend with Rob Biggs/Rick Lawrence looking for a way through. Series leaders Todd Ellis/Emmanuelle Clement got a much better start this time around, and significantly were ahead of series rivals Sam and Tom Christie. This was the containment needed and was never to change throughout the race. The Christie boys had their hands full as they fought through from row four with the Birchalls passing them as they made their own rapid progress. Biggs had played the safe card, choosing intermediate tyres and that was a mistake. He gradually slipped back down the order as the tyres went off from lap five.
Meanwhile, Ellis had fought his way to the front with the Birchalls in tow. They were rarely more than two tenths apart, with Steve Kershaw/Ryan Charlwood battling up to third, setting the fastest lap along the way. This was bettered by Birchall in the closing stages as he closed in on Ellis with half a lap to go. He made the move at before Westfield, and into Clearways, he still held the lead despite Ellis’s best efforts.
Behind these three leaders, Lee Crawford/Jake Lowther had made steady progress until they found themselves in an almighty scrap with the Christie boys. This fight took them clear of Luke Williams/Jason Pitt as they settled into sixth ahead of Craig Currie. The top six outfits finished within twenty seconds of each other after the ten laps, with three seconds covering the podium three.
Runners-up Ellis/Clement claimed the Championship from Sam and Tom Christie after a spirited season from the CES Beverley based brothers. Ben and Tom Birchall’s victory ensure a healthy fifth place despite having only scored in the last three rounds. A huge crowd watched this late morning action ahead of Superbikes, with Eurosport coverage and transmission for later in the day.
1/ Ben/Tom Birchall (Haith Honda)
2/ Todd Ellis/Emmanuelle Clement (Santander Salt Yamaha)
3/ Steve Kershaw/Ryan Charlwood (Quattro Yamaha)
4/ Sam/Tom Christie (CES Yamaha)
5/ Lee Crawford/Jake Lowther (Kawaski LCR)
6/ Luke Williams/Jason Pitt (Williams Yamaha)
7/ Craig Currie/Justin Sharp (Birchall Honda)
8/ Rob Biggs/Rick Lawrence (Santander Salt Yamaha)
9/ Craig Clarke/Peter Ensor (Centurion packaging Honda)
10/ Kevin Cable/Chaz Richardson (L&W Yamaha).
Final Championship standings