FIM Sidecars: Ellis and Schlosser rule and impress in glorious Assen
The Netherlands has been a hot bed of sidecar activity for decades, producing four World Championship victories in the hands of triple winner Egbert Streuer and more recently his son Benny.
The Assen circuit once again played host to the sidecar fraternity on the World Superbike stage, and a fantastic weekend resulted. Both qualifying sessions took place late in the day on Friday in near perfect weather conditions, albeit with a strong breeze gusting around.
In the first session, Champions Schlosser/Fries (Gustoil Yamaha) made the early running with Todd Ellis/Emmanuelle Clement (Santander Salt Yamaha) in close company. A time of 1.43.892 seemed to be the standard, until Schlosser banged in a 1.43.700. Streuer (Bonovo Action Yamaha) was also strong. Kershaw/Charlwood Quattro Yamaha) sat sixth fastest, but it was clear there was more to come from all the crews. Tim Reeves/Kevin Rousseau set a very good 1.44.037 on their tenth tour. It was Todd Ellis however who grabbed the best time in the closing stages with stunning 1.43.255.
Session two, and the bar was raised slightly with a real sense of urgency from the key players. Ellis’s time was going to be hard to beat, but the gloves were off. Schlosser improved, Benny Streuer moved third and Tim Reeves placed fourth, but looked menacing. Suddenly Reeves was upping his game and Todd Ellis looked threatened. Could either crew find a fraction more with minutes left to go?
One lap remaining, and it was now or never for eight times champion Reeves. Into the closing moments and it was indeed Ellis on pole, from Reeves, then Schlosser from Streuer with Kershaw fifth and Harry Payne/Mark Wilkes sixth. Wyssen sat seventh and Ted Peugeot eighth. The Reeves challenge had been strong but missed the mark by a fraction.
Sun and wind prevailed in large doses on Saturday, and a full grandstand appreciated the efforts of the FIM Sidecars. They were here to watch world-class racing and were not disappointed.
From the off, there were six teams in line astern with pole sitters Ellis/Clement leading the freight-train. Behind them came the Bonovo Action multiple champion Reeves chased by an impressive Benny Streuer/Kevin Kolsch, with the reigning champions Schlosser/Fries hanging onto fourth ahead of Steve Kershaw/Ryan Charlwood.
Also in close company came Harry Payne/Mark Wilkes (DAO 1886 Yamaha) and a determined Ted/Vincent Peugeot (FHC Competition Yamaha).
This convoy was mightily impressive, watched by a hugely supportive crowd in the grandstand.
Lap three and Reeves was ahead, only for Ellis to reclaim the place for the next three laps. Then it was Reeves again, just as Schlosser began to close on Streuer. Lap seven saw Reeves back in front with Streuer making a move resulting in some contact in the busy action at the front. This left the Dutchman a fuming and damaged apparent victim. He maintained he had the speed to take the lead, and in his fifteen years, had never run into anyone. His fairing mounting was broken causing it to shake about and rub on the rear tyre. From then on it was damage limitation for the mild-mannered former champion.
Kershaw/Charlwood picked him off, relegating him to fifth, and that is where he stayed. Schlosser fought past Ellis to set after Reeves. Ellis went with him, and Reeves slipped back to third. There was no looking back for the Swiss pair as they stormed to victory from Ellis, moving into a one-point series lead. A brave and still battered Harry Payne claimed sixth place from another stylish Swiss Lukas Wyssen. He and passenger Thomas Hofer looked good on track and when interviewed, said there was more to come.
This was a great example of the close level of competition now prevalent in this rejuvenated FIM World Championship.
1/ Markus Schlosser/Marcel Fries (Gustoil Yamaha)
2/ Todd Ellis/Emmanuelle Clement (Santander Salt Yamaha
3/ Tim Reeves/Kevin Rousseau (Bonovo Action Yamaha)
4/ Steve Kershaw/Ryan Charlwood (Quattro Yamaha)
5/ Benny Streuer/Kevin Kolsch (Bonovo Action Yamaha)
6/ Harry Payne/Mark Wilkes (DAO 1886 Yamaha)
7/ Lukas Wyssen/Thomas Hofer (Gustoil Yamaha)
8/ Ted Peugeot/Vincent Peugeot (FHC Competition Yamaha)
9/ Cedric Pierard/Arnaud Pierard (Pierard Yamaha)
10/ Kevin Cable/Charlie Richardson (LW Racing Yamaha)
More strong wind and sunshine set the scene for this one, with Reeves/Rousseau making another flyer off the line. Eager to get the job done, Ellis/Clement grabbed the lead on lap one. Reeves was back in front next time around and it was game on. Streuer was into third, slipping by Kershaw/Charlwood, with Schlosser sitting fifth.
Once again, the sight of this convoy of outfits streaming down the Assen main straight was something to behold. The grandstand was still packed from the WSBK races, and the Dutch love their sidecars.
Lap five, and Kershaw had relegated Streuer and were in a podium slot, as Schlosser also began to pressurise the Dutchman. Ellis moved to the front after shadowing Reeves for four laps.
Harry Payne/Mark Wilkes came next with the bit between their teeth, involved with Peugeot and Wyssen. They were to break free, make good ground, and claim an amazing finish on a bike which had to be completely rebuilt en-route from Le Mans.
At the front, Ellis displayed a mature and calculated attitude, pulling away from Tim Reeves, never to look back. Schlosser was on the move, with Kershaw slipping backwards having taken the best out of his tyres. Payne assumed his fourth place, as Schlosser closed in on Reeves. Ellis was six seconds clear at the flag, restoring his series lead to four points, with Tim Reeves still searching for an elusive victory. Schlosser was once again his impeccable self, fully aware he has a battle on his hands to retain his title. Benny Streuer is back to full fitness and form, so expect to see him hard at it as the season progresses. He and Kevin Kolsch look a class act together. Given the shortage of entries early in the season, this 2022 championship has all the hallmarks of being an epic one.
Full standings will be available on the FIM-Moto Sport website as they become available.
Round Three takes place June 4-5th on the Spa Francorchamps circuit, sharing the stage once more with the FIM World Endurance Championship.
Photo credit: Mark ‘Wally’ Walters