Lauder pair enjoy post-race relaxation at Spa

Round three of the Sidecar World Championship was the most anticipated race of the year as 17 crews headed to the iconic Spa-Francorchamps circuit in the Ardennes.

By Ralph Mellon
Wednesday, 8th June 2022, 6:19 pm
Steve Kershaw, right, with Ryan Charlwood (picture by Mark Walters)
Steve Kershaw, right, with Ryan Charlwood (picture by Mark Walters)

This was the first time in almost a quarter of a century the track was included in the calendar and, at almost four and a half miles long, the fast, flowing rollercoaster nature of the layout was sure to challenge even the best.

Lauder’s Team Kershaw had been working hard on their Quattro LCR outfit since Assen to improve the crucial top speed for Spa, reported Robin Wilson, and modifications to the air intakes seemed to have worked as they took third in qualifying ahead of last year’s champions, Schlosser/Fries, and just behind series leaders Ellis/Clement on pole and 2014 champions, Streuer/Kolsch, second.

Missing from the grid was other potential frontrunners Reeves/Rousseau and Payne /Wilkes, who opted to race at the Isle of Man TT, so it was a great chance for Kershaw and Charlwood to put extra points on the board.

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Race one on Friday was held in beautiful conditions and it was a perfect start for Streuer/Kolsch, who led out of La Source hairpin on lap one but Ellis/Clement blitzed past down into Eau Rouge and took a lead which they were never to relinquish for the full 11 laps.

Behind the slipstreaming, battle raged as Schlosser/Fries tried to get round Streuer/Kolsch and Kershaw/Charlwood, who appeared to be glued together.

By lap four, the reigning champions had bullied their way through to second but, hard as they tried, couldn’t match the speed of Ellis through the fast downhill sector two and had to settle for second place at the flag, a second and a half adrift.

Behind, it looked like Streuer/Kolsch had the measure of the Lauder boys but, with Kershaw and Charlwood wrestling the unco-operative LCR through the lefts, just managed to dive bomb the Dutchman at the final chicane to steal third and, with it, their first podium of the year.

Knowing they were struggling to keep up with the front runners, the Kershaw crew worked on Friday night to alter the handling and things looked better in Saturday warm-up.

That day’s race two was again in perfect conditions and, again, Streuer/Kolsch hit the front, looking more determined than ever not to lose out again.

But, this time it was Schlosser/Fries who snatched the lead at the end of lap one and tried to break free but Ellis/Clement were back on them by lap three and swiftly moved through on lap four to lead.

Yet again, Streuer/Kolsch had the Scots stuck to their rear and, even though Kershaw and Charlwood upped their fastest lap by almost a second, so did everyone else.

On lap eight, Schlosser/Fries were the first crew other than Ellis/Clement to lead but it only lasted two laps as, again, they swept past into first place and carried the advantage to the line less than one second ahead.

By mid-race, Steve and Ryan knew trying to hang with Streuer was likely to end in disaster, as they were on the handling limit with what they had, so played safe to come home fourth.

In the overall standings, Ellis/Clement now has a 14-point lead over Schlosser/Fries, with Kershaw/Charlwood now in third place at Reeves/Rousseau’s expense but 61 points back from the leaders.

It’s a quick turnaround, though, as the team comes home for a week and then hits the road again to take in the next two rounds in Hungary and Croatia on consecutive weekends, so it’s still all to play for.

Kershaw was pleased with how the weekend had panned out, saying: “Spa is one of the circuits I’ve dreamed of racing since I was a small boy, so to come and get on the podium first time out is unbelievable.

"We know we’ve got changes to make to the suspension, as we’re struggling to keep with front guys in the fast corners, so there’ll be no rest when we’re home.

"The bonus is we’ve been to the upcoming circuits before, so we have data we can use to help.

"If they are half as good as last weekend, we can’t wait.”