British F1: Ellis/Clement masterclass at fantastic Cadwell Park Sidecar Revival
The weather was very kind, and the entry was superb across all classes for the fourth Cadwell Park Sidecar Revival. This Bemsee organised meeting is the only one outside of the British Superbike calendar and caters for all classes of sidecars ancient and modern.
Three races for the Molson Group F1 Championship with seventy-five points up for grabs were a meaningful target for all concerned, with Ben and Tom Birchall making their first appearance in the series this year. Both they and Craig Currie/Justin Sharpe were out on their short chassis TT Honda engine projectiles. They would not be eligible to take points however, due to their technical specification, and chose to compete in the FSRA F2 category. Todd Ellis had a degree of experimentation with the new Ryde F1 chassis, putting it through its paces extensively in Friday testing with great success. This was home ground for Todd Ellis/Emmanuelle Clement, and they would be going for it as usual. Trying to stop them would be the top two crews in the series, Lewis Blackstock/Paddy Rosney and Sam/Tom Christie.
Saturday dawned with glorious sunshine from the word go, with just one session scheduled for late morning. Todd Ellis popped out in the Bemsee session with the Ryde F1, posting a best time of 1.36.6, a clear six seconds ahead of the closest club outfit.
In the session proper, the Anglo-French par did the same again but this time on the LCR, circulating at sub-lap record pace ahead of Sam/Tom Christie and the series leaders Blackstock/Rosney. Just behind came George Holden/Oscar Lawrence who were easily the best of the rest, two seconds clear of Rob Biggs and new passenger Jason Pitt. They in turn, were well ahead of Kevin Cable/Chaz Richardson and Rupert Archer/Phil Hyde.
A flying start took the pole sitters into an immediate lead at Coppice with Blackstock/Rosney in close company from the Christie brothers and Holden/Lawrence. Then came Rob Biggs and Jason Pitt and Simon Robinson/Mick Fairhurst.
The top three broke away in perfect track conditions, opening a slight gap back to the Holden/Lawrence Kawasaki. These four outfits were steadily pulling away with Ellis/Clement easing out a slight edge on lap two.
Then Sam/Tom Christie were on the back of the Express Tyre Services Yamaha, with Blackstock suffering from tyre degradation. They had a moment on the grass and never felt safe thereafter. They simply lost confidence in the feel, lost their speed, and dropped to third, never to recover. Ellis/Clement meanwhile, set a new race lap record of 1.32.099 on lap four and headed the Christies home over the ten laps.
The pace was fierce, and the improvement in lap times by Ellis, Christie and Blackstock before his tyres went off was remarkable. Holden too has steadily gained pace and smoothness. Further down the order, Biggs and Robinson were enjoying their own scrap, with Kevin Cable/Charlie Richardson pulling a gap on Archer. Andy Peach and Ken Edwards sported new Gulf livery and spent the race fighting off Craig Clarke/Peter Ensor, eventually losing out. The Hazbeans duo of Hauxwell and Taylor had another enjoyable outing to claim more points.
1/ Todd Ellis/Emmanuelle Clement (Santander Salt Yamaha)
2/ Sam Christie/Tom Christie (CES Yamaha)
3/ Lewis Blackstock/Paddy Rosney (Express Tyre Services Yamaha)
4/ George Holden/Oscar Lawrence (Holden Racing Kawasaki),
5/ Rob Biggs/Jason Pitt (Santander Salt Yamaha)
6/ Simon Robinson/Mick Fairhurst (24 Seven Courier Service Yamaha)
7/ Kevin Cable/Charlie Richardson (L&W Contractors Yamaha)
8/ Rupert Archer/Phil Hyde (Hannafin Yamaha RSR)
9/ Craig Clarke/Peter Ensor (Centurion Yamaha)
10/ Andy Peach/Ken Edwards (Lifesafety Yamaha)
11/ Craig Hauxwell/Derek Taylor (Hazbeans Yamaha).
It was more of the same this time around in terms of glorious sunshine, with Blackstock/Rosney sporting new rubber. They had a flying start fired up with determination with Ellis/Clement in second and the Christies third ahead of Holden/Lawrence. The lead was short-lived however, as Ellis shot the Yamaha past on the opening lap. From then on, he and his lady passenger just piled on the coals, setting yet another lap record of 1.31.617 on lap two. This surpassed the previous 1000cc record held by Tim Reeves, so the World Championship leaders were clearly setting new standards in 2022. The battle for second place raged between Blackstock/Rosney and the CES Christie brother’s Yamaha, with Blackstock slipping back to third.
Behind came Holden/Lawrence again, closing a little on Blackstock towards the end of the race. Next was a fine fifth throughout by Simon Robinson and Mick Fairhurst celebrating his 2021 “passenger of the year” award presented the previous evening. Their result put them fifth in the standings after race two.
Kevin Cable fought a race-long duel with Rupert Archer/Phil Hyde ahead of Clarke and Hauxwell. It was retirement for both Andy Peach and Rob Biggs who was suffering with a distinct lack of engine performance as the race wore on. It is hard to see any answers for the devastating speed of Ellis/Clement. With one more race to go here, and Thruxton coming up, they were moving towards a strong series challenge.
The heat had gone up considerably ahead of the final outing with Ellis again almost making the best of the pole position start. He shot off the line but was beaten into Charlies by Blackstock/Rosney, with George Holden/Oscar Lawrence third and fighting. The Christie boys were fourth, but eager and desperate to get back in touch. Lap two, and Holden/Lawrence were not about to give their second spot away, with Blackstock/Rosney nipping at their heels, and the frustrated Christies stuck in fourth. As Ellis/Clement gave a masterful display on the singing Yamaha, the trio behind circulated lap after lap in close formation with Holden looking strong, if a little under pressure.
Robinson/Fairhurst were next, ahead of a despondent Rob Biggs/Jason Pitt. These crews have the speed when all is well, but the bikes were simply not playing ball in this final outing. Both were eventually to retire towards the end of the race on laps seven and eight respectively. The field was now down to eight finishers with Andy Peach/Ken Edwards already non-starters in this one. A gleeful Kevin Cable/Chaz Richardson who had spent the entire race defending another challenge from Archer/Hyde, found themselves in fifth with more solid points. Rupert Archer is another competitor who, by sheer doggedness and consistency, is now placed fifth in the standings just two points ahead of relative newcomers Robinson/Fairhurst. But for their retirement, they would have been in that position.
At the front the battle raged into the final two laps with Ellis/Clement now twenty seconds clear of the trio behind. Blackstock/Rosney were down to fourth with the Christies climbing all over George Holden/Oscar Lawrence on the Holden Racing Kawasaki.
Then the inevitable happened approaching the mountain section before the final lap. A coming together between third and fourth saw the Christies emerge with wheel arch damage and a smoking tyre, whilst Blackstock/Rosney appeared later. They were still fourth, but the chance had gone. Holden/Lawrence meanwhile were cock-a-hoop with their best result at this level.
This championship might have been missing some top names early in the season, but those teams who have turned up and supported the series, have had good racing, and found reward for their efforts.
As for Todd Ellis and Emmanuelle Clement, they are simply in a special pace at this precise moment and few, with any honest knowledge of this sport, could possibly argue with that.