Once again, the Thruxton circuit served up some Hampshire heat for the massive crowd at round six of the Molson British F1 sidecar championship.
Three races over two days around the fastest mainland track in the UK is a stern test of machines, men and women – and 25 teams accepted the challenge.
Runaway series leaders Todd Ellis and Chas Richardson were keen to keep up the momentum but Borders battlers Steve Kershaw and Stuart Clark are always fast.
Thrown into the mix were world champions Birchall/Birchall, lap record holders Stevens/Charlwood and the ever-improving Blackstock/Rosney.
Saturday’s race one started with the Birchalls making the most of their pole position to lead lap one from Blackstock/Rosney but, with the top four covered by less than a second, the fun was to come thick and fast.
On lap four, Kershaw/Clark passed Blackstock/Rosney for second, quickly bridged the gap to the leaders and squeezed past to lead on lap six. Behind, Blackstock’s motor expired, ending the SBR racing challenge for the weekend.
Ellis/Richardson were making amends for a poor start and latched on to Stevens’ tail. He got the message and the hammer down to catch and pass a frustrated Birchall team on the last of the eight laps, breaking the lap record in the process.
Kershaw /Clark took their first win since Knockhill, Stevens/Charlwood the lap record and the chasers were left scratching their heads.
So dominant were the front four that Walker/Hawes, in fifth, was over 30 seconds back.
Race two on Saturday evening, with the top 10 reverse grid, was all about the start.
Cut to a five-lap dash after the first attempt, it was stopped after passenger Shawn Hildige slid out of his outfit and received a broken ankle for his birthday.
The top four crews weaved their way through the traffic and, after lap one, over the line it was Ellis/Kershaw/Birchall in that order, almost tied together.
On lap two, the Birchalls used the slipstream to set another new lap record but couldn’t get ahead of the
Santander Salt teammates.
Steve and Stuart used the draught on the next lap to dive under Ellis/Richardson at the chicane but lost the lead the very same way on the next lap, as Todd and Chas repaid the favour.
The last lap was a nailbiter as the Lauder boys tried to go around the outside at the chicane but didn’t quite manage it and, on the run to the line, it remained Ellis/Kershaw/Birchall covered by half a second. Breathtaking stuff.
This teed up Sunday’s race three beautifully, with another reverse grid.
Biggs/Schmitz took the initiative but, by lap two, the Birchalls made it to the front and swiftly pulled a gap.
Kershaw/Clark were third, passed Biggs on lap three and, on lap four, caught and passed the leaders
sweetly into the Complex, steadily pulling away to win by a second, set the fastest lap of the
race and inflict three straight defeats on the world champions.
Ellis/Richardson knew third was the best they could do and came home third ahead of Stevens/Charlwood.
Overall, the Lauder crew clawed back 16 points on Ellis and Richardson and gained a
massive confidence boost ahead of this weekend’s return to Cadwell Park. The margin is now 58 points, but not insurmountable.
“Great weekend for us.” said Steve. “I made one small mistake which cost us race two, but to beat Ben and Tom (Birchall) every time is
amazing. Tough, but worth every second. Thanks to Callum and Jacob for all the work on the outfit this weekend.”
With four more rounds to go, the Express tyres/Blinkbonny Quarry backed boys will be looking for more of the same.